Northern Ireland abortion ban: Court rules women aren't entitled to free abortions from NHS England

An 18-year-old Northern Irish woman and her mother had appealed the High Court ruling

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The Independent Online

The Court of Appeal has upheld the Health Secretary’s policy of not allowing Northern Irish women to access free abortions on the NHS in England and Wales, in a landmark ruling.

Unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland including pregnancy as a result of rape, incest or where the foetus has a severe disability.

Over a thousand Northern Irish women and girls travel to England and Wales every year to access terminations. However, they are not entitled to free procedures as English and Welsh women are.

Last year the High Court ruled that women from Northern Ireland are not legally entitled to receive the free procedures. Mr Justice King upheld the Health Secretary’s policy on the grounds that although Northern Irish women are UK citizens, the NHS is entitled to adopt a residence-based system to stop Northern Irish women benefiting from NHS services in England.

Today the Court of Appeals heard an appeal by a young Northern Irish woman and her mother. The 18-year-old applicant was aged 15 when she made the journey in October 2012 to an English abortion clinic with her mother and had to pay hundreds of pounds for a private termination because she was excluded from free abortion services.

The court heard that the total cost of travel and the procedure for women travelling from Northern Ireland is £900. 

However, the court ruling this morning upheld the High Court’s decision. The judges also refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

With additional reporting by PA