U.K. Supreme Court Upholds Law Protecting Unborn Children in Northern Ireland From Abortion

Northern Ireland remains as the only part of the United Kingdom where the lives of the unborn are protected from liberal abortion laws following a landmark ruling by the U.K. Supreme Court.

(PHOTO: REUTERS/OLIVIA HARRIS)Pro-life campaigners rally outside an abortion clinic in London.

Pro-life advocates rejoiced when the Court recently upheld an existing law barring free abortions offered by the National Health Service (NHS) in England to women from Northern Ireland, The Christian Institute reported.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. that provides strong protection for unborn children and where abortion remains illegal except in cases when the life of the mother is threatened.

More than 700 pregnant women traveled from Northern Ireland to England to have an abortion last year because the procedure remains illegal in most circumstances in their region, The Guardian reported, citing official sources.

All of these women had to pay between $507 (£400) and $2,535 (£2,000) to have the abortion performed privately because of the ban on NHS-funded abortion care for women from Northern Ireland.

The Supreme Court made the verdict after the judges heard the case of one of these women, identified only as A, who was 15 and resident in Northern Ireland when she became pregnant in 2012.

Unable to access abortion services in Northern Ireland, she traveled to Manchester with her mother, and used the services of a private clinic, at a total cost of $1,140 (£900) including travel. The woman then appealed to the Supreme Court to force the NHS to fund the abortions of all women from U.K., including those from Northern Ireland.

In announcing the court's verdict, Lord Wilson said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was right to respect "the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland not to fund abortion services."

Lord Wilson was referring to a public consultation made by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice on proposals to liberalize abortion laws. An overwhelming majority of the respondents rejected any change in the law.

Pro-life group The Iona Institute said Northern Ireland "should be proud of its life-saving abortion law."

It added: "At a time when scientific advances have given us an amazing 'window' into babies in the womb, we are right to continue to reject the permissive British abortion model."

Liam Gibson, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, also lauded Northern Ireland's opposition to the call to legalize abortion.

He said yielding to the abortion call "would inevitably result in killing of babies on a massive scale, just as it has in the rest of the U.K."

He rejected claims that access to abortion is a human right, saying the right to life is the "most fundamental of all human rights" and applied to "all human beings, regardless of age or stage of development."

In England, Scotland and Wales an abortion can be legally carried out up to the 24-week limit. However, the 1967 Abortion Act, which established legal abortion, has not been applied in Northern Ireland, The Sun reported.