THE legal costs of an unprecedented bid by a father to stop his partner travelling to the UK for an abortion will be footed by two Northern Ireland-based pro-life groups.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and Precious Life, a group that mounts daily pickets and prayer vigils outside the Belfast offices of the Family Planning Association (FPA), have said they will pick up the legal bill and other costs for the young couple, who have now decided to proceed with the pregnancy.
Earlier this week, the father-to-be sought a series of High Court injunctions in Dublin to stop his girlfriend, who is 20 weeks' pregnant, from leaving the country for an abortion until her true wishes were ascertained.
The couple had been living in Northern Ireland and the young woman – who had her stomach rubbed and rosary beads pressed into her hands by a pro-life activist outside the High Court yesterday – was due to have a termination on Thursday.
Precious Life said it supported the legal bid after the expectant mother, who is in her 20s, had been "taken" to the Republic by her parents on July 12.
The support offered by Precious Life and SPUC emerged after the man had withdrawn his application at the High Court in Dublin yesterday.
He wanted the court to order a psychiatric assessment of his girlfriend to establish if she was acting of her own free will.
But he withdrew the case after his girlfriend submitted a statement to High Court judge Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.
The judge was told that "matters would continue as at present in relation to the pregnancy".
Bernadette Smyth, founder of Precious Life, said the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Northern Ireland had passed on the organisation's number to the couple, who were living in the Republic of Ireland but then moved to the North.
"They were very happy to continue with the pregnancy," said Ms Smith. She commented: "Women deserve better than abortion" and said the boyfriend feared that the young woman was being coerced.
Liam Gibson, Northern Ireland development officer for SPUC, said the High Court intervention in Dublin was "the only option" that was available to the man.
"He (the boyfriend) was willing to do whatever he could," said Mr Gibson, who explained that SPUC would financially assist him.
He added: "He was willing to go down whatever avenue to protect his girlfriend and his unborn child."