Human rights chief starts legal action to secure abortions - move slammed by TUV

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Legal action has been initiated in Northern Ireland over a “lack of access” to abortion services.

A near blanket ban on terminations in the Province ended in 2019 when MPs intervened and voted through a law change.

Although the Stormont Assembly backed a motion that rejected the “imposition” of the new laws on the Province, it had no impact on the legal status of the regulations, and guidelines that provide the legal framework for the provision of abortion services were approved.

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However, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission chief Les Allamby says there are a “lack of commissioned and funded abortion services”.

Precious Life take part in an anti-abortion protest at StormontPrecious Life take part in an anti-abortion protest at Stormont
Precious Life take part in an anti-abortion protest at Stormont

He has initiated legal action against Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, the Stormont Executive and the Department of Health for “failing to commission and fund abortion services”.

“The commission is deeply concerned at the lack of commissioned and funded abortion services in Northern Ireland, leading to a vacuum for many women and girls seeking such services,” he said.

“One health and care trust recently ceased to provide a service for three months while another has just stopped providing a service, leaving women and girls to travel to the rest of the UK, elsewhere in Ireland, or to use unregulated services.

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“The commission has previously sought to engage with the NI Executive and the Department of Health to resolve this issue and is taking this legal action as a last resort.”

Mr Allamby said the commission believes a failure of the Executive and Department of Health to fund and commission services breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The secretary of state for Northern Ireland has a statutory requirement under the NI (Executive Formation) Act 2019 to ensure that the recommendations of the Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination against Women committee are implemented.”

However TUV TUV Bannside councillor Timothy Gaston challenged the commission for its actions.

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“We have learned to expect little from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission but their decision to launch legal action over the alleged failure to commission and fund the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland is a new low,” he said. “It is shameful that an organisation which proudly markets itself as ‘protecting and promoting the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland’ should use public money in an action which would, if successful, result in a direct threat to the most basic and fundamental human right of the most vulnerable – the right to life of the unborn.

“Our doctors and nurses are valiantly combating the threat of the virus and battle to keep people alive in our hospitals. They have won the admiration of everyone in our Province in doing so and this weekend Trusts were openly saying that they were at breaking point. Yet the NIHRC has chosen this moment to go to court to seek to use NHS resources in the ending of human lives.”

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Alistair Bushe