Britain’s highest court said national health service not obliged to provide free abortions to women coming from Northern Ireland

By Dave Andrusko

The United Kingdom Supreme Court

The United Kingdom Supreme Court

In a split 3-2 decision, the UK Supreme Court agreed with two lower court decisions that Britain’s National Health Service (NHS)is not obliged to pay for the abortion of a woman who traveled to Britain from Northern Ireland.

“The judges agreed with the lower courts that the policy did not amount to unlawful discrimination and was not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights,” the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children explained. “The Court stressed the need to “afford respect to the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland.”

“A” (the daughter) and “B” ( the mother) traveled to England for the girl to have an abortion in 2012 when she was 15.

In 2014, a judge in London’s High Court held the exclusion was lawful. In 2015, the Court of Appeal agreed, ruling that there is no legal obligation on health services in England and Wales to provide publicly funded (free) abortions which would be unlawful within Northern Ireland. However they were granted permission to appeal to the British Supreme Court.

As we reported at the time, “The Supreme Court granted six pro-abortion organizations the right to intervene in the case: Alliance for Choice, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Birthrights, the Family Planning Association, Abortion Support Network and the British Humanist Association.”

In a statement, the woman and her mother said, “We are really encouraged that two of the judges found in our favor and all of the judges were sympathetic to A’s situation.” They said they would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in their ongoing attempt “to protect the human rights of the many other women who make the lonely journey to England every week because they are denied access to basic healthcare services in their own country.”

Lady Hale and Lord Kerr, the court’s deputy presidents, dissented. “The difference in treatment by the NHS in England between women from England and women from Northern Ireland cannot be justified by respect for the democratic decisions made in Northern Ireland as to what will be provided by the NHS there,” they wrote.

However, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed and Lord Hughes dismissed the appeal because, they wrote, to allow the ruling would contribute to “both a substantial level of health tourism into England from within the UK and from abroad and a near collapse of the edifice of devolved health services.”

Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland Development Officer, said:

“This case had no basis in genuine human rights. Instead this should be seen as a cynical attempt by the British abortion industry to get around Northern Ireland’s legal protection for children before birth. It was about bringing in more customers from Northern Ireland. Every day in Britain there are about 550 abortions. The majority of these are carried out in commercial abortion facilities but they’re paid for by the NHS. This arrangement has made abortion a multi-million-pound industry. Yet the number of women travelling from Northern Ireland for abortions in England has steadily declined over the past 10 years.”