Case of woman accused of obtaining abortion pills for daughter adjourned

North’s Lord Chief Justice says better understading of recent Supreme Court ruling needed

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A legal challenge involving a woman accused of obtaining abortion pills for her teenage daughter in Northern Ireland has been adjourned.

Before the case began, the woman said she was in “fear and pain” over the looming prosecution.

The judicial review hearing was adjourned to allow prosecutors to make a formal submission to the High Court in Belfast on the human rights implications of the case in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling.

Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “Dealing with the case in the absence of understanding the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) response to the Supreme Court would be entirely inappropriate.”

He directed that prosecutors give their response within two weeks.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland. The procedure is illegal except where a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

In June, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission lost its Supreme Court appeal over the legality of Northern Ireland’s restrictive law. But a majority of judges said the law was incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

Relevant

Sir Declan said on Thursday: “There is a continuing duty to keep under review the question.” He said there has been a relevant event in terms of the judgment of the Supreme Court.

A barrister for the PPS, Tony McGleenan QC, said there had not been a “formalised” analysis of the ruling by the higher court but the organisation had “cognisance” of it.

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is seeking a judicial review in the civil courts of the decision to prosecute her in the criminal court over an allegation she obtained abortion medication for her pregnant 15-year-old daughter.

Before the brief court hearing, she said the case “is there at every important moment of my and my children’s lives — just hanging over me.

“The fear and pain of it all. I feel like I am not allowed to move on.”

She is supported by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission.

Anti-abortion activists including Bernie Smyth from campaign group Precious Life also gathered outside court ahead of the hearing.

“It is vitally important that we uphold the law here in Northern Ireland,” she said. - PA

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