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30 / 10 / 2009 - Precious Life Prayer Vigil outside Belfast High Court
Precious Life held a two day Prayer Vigil outside the High Court in Belfast on 27 and 28th October to support a legal challenge to Department of Health guidelines on abortion in Northern Ireland. The court case was brought by the the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) to seek a High Court declaration that the guidelines do not properly set out the law; are misleading and legally inaccurate.
During the first day of the legal battle, the SPUC’s barrister Mr James Dingemans QC argued that the guidelines failed to deal with the rights of the unborn child.
The Department of Health's exposed their true nature as the “Department of Death” when their legal representative tried to argue the “foetus” had no rights.
However, Mr Dingemans said that, despite the Department of Health's claims, unborn children in Northern Ireland had rights which are safeguarded in the Offences Against the Person Act and the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Act.
Mr Dingemans also highlighted the lack of information in the guidelines which doctors could pass on to their patients about the risks and other potential consequences of abortion, in particular the mental health impact. Mr Dingemans said that women were entitled to treatment which protected their lives, but it was totally misleading for the Department of Health to portray the law as allowing so-called termination of pregnancy services.
On the Second and final day of the case Mr James Dingemans reiterated that Northern Ireland law protected the unborn. He rejected the claims made by the Department of health that it was acceptable for physicians in the province to apply Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidance to cases in Northern Ireland. (The RCOG guidance is based on the 1967 Abortion Act which does not apply in Northern Ireland)
Mr Dingemans pointed out that the RCOG guidance on late term abortion said that the child must not be born alive, or the doctor risked prosecution if his actions after the delivery resulted in the child's death. It would be quite wrong to suggest that obstetricians and gynaecologists should read and apply this principle in Northern Ireland.
Mr Dingemans restated that the court of appeal had found that the Department of Health had failed in its duty to issue guidance but, once that court had ruled, the guidance had to be proper guidance.
He added that abortion was always illegal; what was legal was an intervention to save a mother's life.
Lord Justice Girvan reserved his judgement until after November.
Precious Life’s Petition Campaign continues with our volunteers collecting signatures across Northern Ireland calling on the Stormont Executive to withdraw their approval of the guidelines and restore protection to our unborn children.