Lawyers have won the right to challenge a decision to prosecute a mother in Northern Ireland who procured abortion pills online for her 15-year-old daughter.
In a groundbreaking case that is set to focus attention on Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, a judge in Belfast gave permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, stating that the case raised “issues of considerable public importance and public debate”.
The family’s lawyers argued that compelling the child to go ahead with the pregnancy would have breached her human rights; and by extension the decision to prosecute her mother for helping her access medication also amounted to a breach of her human rights and those of her mother. Lord Justice Weatherup said the judicial review would look at whether there should be prosecutions in these circumstances.
The case came to the attention of police because a doctor at the clinic where the girl sought advice from her GP and received counselling after taking the pills reported her. The review will look at whether the decision by police to access her medical records without her permission was also a breach of her human rights.
The girl at the centre of the case is not being prosecuted (and has not been named), but her mother faces two charges of unlawfully procuring poison (the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol) with intent to procure a miscarriage, contrary to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, and supplying that poison to her daughter. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 10 years.