The UK Adoption Act 1967 does not apply in Northern Ireland and access to legal abortions in Northern Ireland is very restricted. As a result, some women from Northern Ireland seek abortions in England, Scotland and Wales but these women are not entitled to NHS funding for abortions. There have been two recent cases argued before the UK Supreme Court relating to abortion in Northern Ireland. In the first, R (on the application of A and B) (Appellants) v Secretary of State for Health (Respondent)  UKSC 41, the Supreme Court ruled by 3:2 that the NHS failure to provide that UK citizens usually resident in Northern Ireland be entitled to undergo an abortion free of charge under the NHS in England was not unlawful. The second case, In the application of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland), was argued in November 2017 and judgment is awaited. It was brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which argued that the current laws regulating abortion in Northern Ireland are in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.
This panel discussion will explore the issues raised in both cases, as well as issues relating to the use of strategic litigation in this field. The panel members are the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, David Russell, one of the barristers that appeared for the Commission, Laura McMahon, and Breedagh Hughes, the Director of the Royal College of Midwives, Northern Ireland. The discussion will be facilitated by Imogen Goold from the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford.