The Fight for Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland Isn't Over Yet: Why A & B still need your help
The Government’s U-Turn
- The case remains live and is still in need of urgent funding despite the Government's U-Turn
- A and B have outstanding legal issues to take to the EctHR should the Government fail to settle their case on satisfactory terms.
Within days of A and B launching this appeal for crowdfunding, there was an unexpected u-turn by the Government. On Thursday 29 June, the Government announced that it would fund abortion services in England for women travelling from Northern Ireland. The announcement came hours before a crunch vote in the House of Commons on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech, proposed by Labour MP Stella Creasy MP which had cross-party support from 105 MPs. The u-turn appears to have been made to avert the political embarrassment of losing a vote on this issue.
A and B are delighted at this turn of events, which vindicates their decision to fight the case so far. They welcome the announcement that the Government will, in future, fund abortions for women who make the lonely, distressing journey from Northern Ireland to England for a termination which A had to make and pay for in 2012.
However, A and B’s fight is not over. The Government must urgently now confirm that the proposal meets the practical needs of the hundreds of women forced to travel to England every year, and they must compensate A and B for their financial loss, and the stress and anxiety they have suffered in 2012 and in the five years since. Today, A and B’s legal team is writing to Jeremy Hunt MP to propose a settlement to avoid the need for A and B to have to travel to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to vindicate their rights and the rights of the hundreds of women like them who are forced to travel every year to access abortion services. If he refuses to settle the case, A and B will have to fight on and ask the Court in Strasbourg to decide.
What are the Outstanding Issues for A and B?
In the Supreme Court, Jeremy Hunt MP argued strongly that in not funding abortions for Northern Irish women on the NHS in England it was respecting the decisions of the devolved government in Northern Ireland to have stricter laws on abortion, and that this was not a decision which could or should be taken in Westminster. But now they have done just that, two weeks after a majority of the Supreme Court narrowly agreed with their reasoning. The policy u-turn undermines Jeremy Hunt MP’s argument which persuaded the Supreme Court, by 3 votes to 2, to reject A and B’s claim.
Continuing the case is important for four reasons:
- First, A and B were caused loss by the Government’s discriminatory failures to provide services and they are entitled to compensation for their losses and the stress and anxiety caused to them.
- Second, A and B’s case is that women from Northern Ireland have a fundamental right not to be discriminated against in the provision of abortion services by the NHS in England, and their access to services should not be dependent on the whim of the Government of the day.
- Third, it is now more important than ever that the Government’s justification, used to persuade the Supreme Court, is carefully examined, as the Government has completely abandoned it. That ruling may have repercussions in many other areas.
- Fourth, little is known about the details of the deal – A and B want to ensure that other women from Northern Ireland have a meaningful way of accessing funding. It remains unclear whether Northern Irish women will continue to be blocked from NHS hospitals in England; and whether they will be able to access the promised funding ‘up front’. These are important questions and A and B want answers in order to protect other low income women like them.
A and B need funds to continue their fight. They urgently need donations to enable them to prepare to bring their case to Strasbourg.
It is more important than ever to fund this case. Your support so far has persuaded the Government to change its mind. Now we must keep them under pressure and secure the best possible deal for A and B, and all Northern Irish women.
Make a donation to help A and B here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/abortion-rights/