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NI abortion guidelines challenged

27th February 2013

Draft advice on abortion for the NHS in Northern Ireland is set to be published within days.

The move by the Department of Health in Stormont was revealed during a High Court hearing in Belfast which had been due to decide whether the department had to publish the guidelines.

The judicial review in the High Court – which will not now need to go ahead - was sought by the Family Planning Association (FPA) which has fought for more than 10 years for guidelines to be issued on the law on abortion.

Health Minister Edwin Poots wrote to the FPA on Tuesday night confirming his decision to put forward proposals to the ministerial Executive in Belfast by 7 March seeking approval to consult on a version of the guidance on termination of pregnancy.

Rules on abortion in Northern Ireland are different from the rest of the UK with the procedure only permitted under very restricted circumstances.

Abortion is a particularly sensitive issue in Northern Ireland and the opening of a Marie Stopes clinic led to demonstrations and scrutiny by a committee in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Audrey Simpson, chief executive of the FPA in Northern Ireland, said guidance needed to be issued as matter of urgency, adding that it was unfortunate it had to resort to legal action.

She said the department should have acted years ago on what the FPA considers is essential guidance which should "contain clear pathways for referrals for women and directions for aftercare services which is essentially what these proceedings were all about".


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