Supreme Court to hear abortion appeal

 

THE Supreme Court will sit tomorrow to consider what may be the final phase of the legal battle over abortion information in this State.

Three students' unions face legal bills of more than £400,000 if their appeal to the Supreme Court over the publication of information is unsuccessful.

The unions involved the Union of Students in Ireland, University College Dublin students' union and Trinity College Dublin students' union - are appealing against a permanent injunction preventing the publication of abortion information in student guidebooks. TCD students' union faces possible closure if the case goes against it and they are forced to pay costs.

The injunction was granted by the High Court to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in 1992, following almost four years of court battles between SPUC and the unions involved.

SPUC took two cases against students' unions in the 1980s. The first, known as SPUC v Coogan and Others, commenced in 1988. The second case, SPUC v Grogan and Others, began in 1989 and it is this case which will near its conclusion tomorrow.

SPUC initially tried and failed to get injunctions against the three unions involved preventing the distribution of information on, abortion clinics. In the High Court, Miss Justice Carroll postponed a decision on the injunctions on the basis that matters had to be referred to the European Court of Justice.

The high costs facing the students arise principally from this referral to Europe, where the students argued that they were entitled to distribute abortion information under European law. In 1991, the Court decided that there was nothing in EC law to prevent an injunction against the distribution of such information. As a result, in 1992 SPUC was granted a permanent injunction preventing publication of abortion information in the guidebooks of the three unions.

In 1994, a receiver was appointed over the funds, assets and administrative facilities of USI and TCD students' union to ensure the payment of costs. Between 1994 and 1995, USI and TCD students' union paid about £36,000 in costs to SPUC. UCD students' union was still considering the costs of the Coogan case at the time.

If the Supreme Court finds against the students' appeal there is the option of a further appeal to Europe, although some of the unions involved are reluctant to consider this approach.

Instead they may continue to appeal to the Government to intervene on their behalf.