Court gives Rosaleen green light to intervene in legal challenge against new abortion regulations
A Dungiven woman whose daughter has Down’s Syndrome has been granted permission by the High Court to intervene in a landmark case against the Secretary of State’s new powers to roll out abortion services in NI.
NI’s abortion legislation was relaxed in 2019 but deadlock at Stormont means full services have not been commissioned. Secretary of State Brandon passed the 2021 Abortion Regulations in March which give him power to direct Stormont to roll out full service provision.
The High Court has given The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) the green light to challenge the regulations and now it has also given Dungiven mother Rosaleen McElhinney permission to intervene.
She believes the regulations will see her fifteen-year-old daughter Cara Rose face mounting discrimination, as she has Down’s Syndrome.
“Cara Rose is a great asset to her school and gets brilliant school reports,” Rosaleen told the News Letter. “Her smile brightens up the room. She is also very caring - especially if someone is upset.
“She loves competing in watersports and is just great fun to be around.
“But my concern is that with these regulations it will become increasingly normal to abort babies who have non-fatal disabilities like Down’s Syndrome.
“And as this becomes something that is normalised in our schools and media, I believe it will lead to Cara Rose being treated as less than human.”
Rosaleen and her family wish to update the court on the physiological impact the regulations have on Cara-Rose and others with disabilities, what they see as the negative undertones they create women in society, and the absence of any consultation on them.
Lynn Murray, of disability rights campaign group, Don’t Screen Us Out, said Rosaleen’s intervention is very important.
“It is actually difficult to express the huge distress caused by a law that not merely affords less protection to unborn babies with Down’s syndrome than to non-disabled children but actually uses Down’s syndrome, or another non-fatal disability, as the very reason why termination is justified.” she said.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State said the government recognises the sensitivities of the issues. However she said it is legally bound by his new regulations to implement the 2018 recommendations on abortion for NI made by the UN’s Committee on the Eiliminationn of Discrimination Against Women.
“We remain of the firm view that the 2020 Abortion Regulations are compatible with our international obligations, including under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” she said. “Proper provision of information, clear medical advice, counselling and other support are key in helping a woman to make informed decisions in very difficult situations.” It is crucial that the Department of Health urgently commission full services, she added. The spokeswoman said the provision in the new regulations in cases of disability mirrors that in GB.
SPUC’s Northern Ireland political officer Liam Gibson said it welcomes the decision to allow Rosaleen McElhinney to intervene in the case and we believe she has a very important contribution to make.
“Abortion is based on the idea that some babies don’t deserve to be born,” he said. “Babies with disability are a primary target of the abortion industry and a government which believes it’s cheaper to abort than support.”
The case is due to begin in October.
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