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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Supreme Court narrowly rejects Northern Ireland free abortions appeal

Cathy Gordon

The UK's highest court has narrowly rejected an appeal by a mother and daughter in their legal battle for women from Northern Ireland to receive free abortions on the NHS in England.

Supreme Court justices announced their three to two majority decision in London on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old woman at the centre of the appeal was 15 in October 2012 when she and her mother travelled from Northern Ireland to Manchester and was told she had to pay hundreds of pounds for a private termination because she was excluded from free abortion services.

They originally lost their action in the High Court in London in May 2014 when a judge ruled that the exclusion was lawful.

The judge concluded that the Health Secretary was entitled to adopt a residence-based system so that women resident in Northern Ireland are not entitled to benefit from NHS abortion services in England, even though they are UK citizens.

The mother and daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, suffered a further defeat at the Court of Appeal in 2015.

The Supreme Court's deputy president Lady Hale and Lord Kerr said they would have allowed the challenge against that earlier decision.

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