SEE YOU IN COURT - ABORTION RIGHTS FOR WOMEN IN NORTHERN IRELAND

by London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

SEE YOU IN COURT - ABORTION RIGHTS FOR WOMEN IN NORTHERN IRELAND

by London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign
London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign
Case Owner
Our aim is to bring people in London together to campaign for access to free, safe, legal abortion across the island of Ireland.
Funded
on 07th July 2019
£17,556
pledged of £15,000 stretch target from 673 pledges
London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign
Case Owner
Our aim is to bring people in London together to campaign for access to free, safe, legal abortion across the island of Ireland.

Latest: July 12, 2019

We welcome the landslide vote in Westminster - but we’re not stopping our case.

As many of you will have seen, on Wednesday, British MPs backed a plan to legalise both abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland if there is still no government in place at Stormont by Oc...

Read more

HELP THE LONDON-IRISH ABORTION RIGHTS CAMPAIGN TO TAKE THE UK GOVERNMENT TO COURT OVER ABORTION RIGHTS IN NORTHERN IRELAND

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign is ready to bring a landmark legal case against the UK government for its failure to change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal in almost all circumstances. Women and girls in Northern Ireland are being denied their human rights and it’s happening on our watch.

Women and girls in Northern Ireland have been left behind for too long.

HELP US MAKE HISTORY

We have marched, we have protested, we have written to our MPs, we have tweeted, we have chanted, women have spoken out about their personal stories. And nothing has changed.

We've been ignored. We have been told to wait. We have been told that it's a devolved matter. We have been told now is not the right time.

But enough is enough.

We can't stand by while this Government refuses to take responsibility for the suffering its inaction in abortion law is causing.

The United Nations has said the law is "tantamount to torture" and that devolution is no excuse. 

Women are suffering because of the inaction of the UK Government, and it's happening on our watch. That's why we have decided to take the UK Government to court.

ABORTION IN NORTHERN IRELAND

It's been 50 years since abortion became legal in England and Wales. 

It's been a year since the Republic of Ireland voted by a landslide to remove the constitutional ban on abortion. This vote changed nothing for Northern Ireland. 

It’s been two and a half years since Northern Ireland has had a functioning Government. 

How much longer can we stand by while women and girls are left behind?

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where abortion is almost completely illegal. It has one of the harshest abortion laws in the world. Abortion in Northern Ireland is illegal in almost all circumstances, there is no exception for rape, incest, or where the baby they are carrying will not survive outside of the womb.

The punishment - up to life in prison for both the woman undergoing the abortion, and for any individual who assists her – is the harshest in Europe and among the harshest in the world. It is the product of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, a law passed when Queen Victoria was on the throne and before women could vote.

On November 18th, the mother of a 15 year old girl (pregnant as a result of statutory rape) will stand trial for getting abortion pills for her daughter who was in an abusive relationship. These are the same pills that are available in England. On the NHS. 

The police were supplied with the daughter’s confidential GP records without her knowledge.

Thousands of NI women travel to England for abortions every year. Many more buy safe (but illegal) abortion pills online and take them at home and risk being arrested. Some of these women are prosecuted.

THE CASE

In June 2018, a judgment of the Supreme Court held that the abortion ban in Northern Ireland on women accessing abortion for pregnancies after rape or sexual violence or where there is a fatal foetal abnormality is a breach of women’s fundamental human rights and a violation of women’s autonomy. The highest court in the UK found that preventing a woman from making decisions about her own welfare and happiness went to “the very centre of her existence”. 

Nearly a year later, the UK Government has done nothing about it. 

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign wants to judicially review the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for her failure to act within her powers to address the current denial of rights to women and girls in Northern Ireland.

Our aim is to ask the government to change the law in line with the Supreme Court judgment to ensure that women who have pregnancies resulting from rape or sexual violence, or women with fatal foetal abnormalities in their pregnancies, can access free, safe and legal abortion in Northern Ireland.

We intend to argue that the Secretary of State’s refusal to do anything is unreasonable and her reasons for doing nothing have been unreasonable; she is obliged by legislation passed in 2018 to take action to address the incompatibility between Northern Ireland abortion laws and the human rights of women and girls; and the arrangements she has made create an obvious and unacceptable risk of further human rights violations.   

It is likely that the UK Government will fight this case very hard.

We have some phenomenal lawyers in Janet Farrell (Bhatt Murphy) and Fiona Murphy and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC (Doughty Street Chambers), who have agreed that they are willing to work ‘at risk’ (that means that we don’t have to pay them, but if we win, they will claim their fees from the UK Government). 

WE CANNOT TAKE THIS CASE UNLESS WE RAISE £10,000

We are asking for an initial £10,000. This will allow us to take the initial steps in formal correspondence with the UK Government and, if appropriate, to take the case to the first stage before the High Court in England and Wales. This is known as the permission stage, and it when the High Court decides whether the case is arguable. 

The money will be used for the initial stages of the case, including to pay court fees and to provide protection from the other side’s costs if the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland tries to claim her fees against us. We need to be able to say that we have money to pay the UK Government’s fees if we lose. We are planning to take steps to get a cap on the amount of money we are at risk of having to pay. 

If we don’t need to use the money you donate to us for this case (if something changes so we don’t need to proceed - or we win!), we will give it to the Abortion Support Network (a charity which provides financial assistance to women who live in countries where abortion is illegal, so that they can travel to another country for an abortion - https://www.asn.org.uk/).

The immediate work that needs doing

  • We have already prepared and sent a formal letter before claim to the government and are waiting for their response.

  • We will review that response and take advice from our lawyers, on whether and how we should issue legal proceedings. 

  • We are likely to then have to file our case at the High Court, with formal legal arguments and evidence.

  • The Secretary of State is likely to respond and we may need to reply to what she says. 

  • After that a High Court Judge will decide whether the case is arguable. 

  • We are likely to apply for the costs capping order at that stage, if we have not been able to reach agreement with the UK Government to cap our costs risk. 

  • If the judge agrees the case is arguable it will be listed for a full hearing.

  • There will be a lot of correspondence - with the court and the Government, amongst others - and there will be a lot of administrative work to do, like preparing court bundles.

  • At any stage the Secretary of State can concede and legislate to protect women’s fundamental rights.  

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Update 2

London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

July 12, 2019

We welcome the landslide vote in Westminster - but we’re not stopping our case.

As many of you will have seen, on Wednesday, British MPs backed a plan to legalise both abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland if there is still no government in place at Stormont by October 21.

The abortion amendment tabled by Stella Creasy passed by 332 votes to 99, with a majority of 233.

We are so pleased to see the amendment vote was passing by a landslide, but we are also thinking of the women who are still travelling today in order to access abortion care. 

And it's for that reason that we will not be dropping the case.

We have started the process of judicial proceedings and we are talking to our legal team about the way forward. Parliament wants the government to act – we will keep the pressure up to make sure that happens.

The ultimate aim is access to abortion for women across Northern Ireland, and until that is actually happening we won't be giving up.


Update 1

London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign

July 7, 2019

You helped us raise £10,000 in 36 hours - can we make it £15,000?

Thank you so much - we are overwhelmed by your support! 

You helped us raise £10,000 in 36 hours - can you help us reach £15,000? 

We are taking the UK Government to court for their failure to provide safe abortion access to people in Northern Ireland. The first £10,000 will cover the Government’s legal fees if we lose, and the next £5,000 will cover our own court and admin fees. 

Please send this to a pro-choice friend. #NowForNI

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