UKSC to rule on Northern Ireland woman’s access to free abortion in England
The Supreme Court will rule next week on a challenge to the Secretary of State for Health over his failure to make abortion available on the NHS in England to women from Northern Ireland.
Judgment in R (on the application of A and B) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for Health (Respondent) will be handed down on Wednesday 14 June at 9.45am.
The issues in this case are:
In 2012, A, a young woman of 15 resident in Northern Ireland, fell pregnant. In order to obtain an abortion, she used the services of a private clinic in England with B, her mother (and her litigation friend in these proceedings), at a total cost of £900 (including travel).
She did so because she reasonably believed that abortion services would not be available to her in Northern Ireland or through the NHS in England because she was ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland. The Abortion Act 1967, which liberalised the law of abortion, does not extend to Northern Ireland.
It would be within the power of the Secretary of State to make greater provision for abortion services to be provided to women from Northern Ireland through the NHS in England but, save in exceptional cases, he had not exercised that power at the material time and has not done so since. A brought proceedings for judicial review.
She contended that the failure to exercise the Secretary of State’s power and the continuation of the exclusionary policy applicable (inter alia) to women ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland was unlawful. The claim was dismissed and the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.