30/11/2009

Anti-Abortion Activists Win Court Bid

Northern Ireland's Department of Health has been ordered to withdraw its current abortion guidelines.

A court today ruled that guidance issued by the department fails to deal properly with counselling and conscientious objection.

The case was brought by anti-abortion campaigners, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, who suggested government advice was misleading and legally inaccurate.

They won the right for greater clarity from public information.

However, Lord Justice Girvan stopped short of quashing the document, which was published by the Department of Health in March.
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He said: "An order directing that the guidance be withdrawn must be the appropriate relief in the circumstances where it has been found to be misleading."

Anti-abortion activists had sought a declaration that the decision to publish the advice to health professionals was unlawful.

Abortions are illegal in Northern Ireland, except in certain circumstance.

Medical professionals can allow a pregnancy to be terminated if the mother's life is at risk, or if giving birth could adversely effect her future mental or physical health.

The Royal College of Midwives has said the Department of Health's guidelines bring greater clarity to the legal position of staff who take part in abortions.

(PR/BMcc)

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