Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Abortion Back in the Legal Spotlight

Abortion is back in Court in 2 cases at present.

The Supreme Court is hearing an Appeal by Glasgow NHS against the decision of the Court of Session recognising the right to conscientious objection of Midwives laid down in  Doogan & Anor v NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board [2013] ScotCS CSIH_36  

I discussed this case in this Blog at

Call the Midwife - I want an Abortion !        7  MARCH 2012

Call the Midwife I want an Abortion ! - 2    24  APRIL 2013

so I shall await the Supreme Court decision with interest and in the hope that it will confirm the clear and well reasoned decision of the Court of Session in April 2013

At the other end of the Courts structure a Doctor has been summonsed to appear at Manchester Magistrates Court in response to a private prosecution relating to alleged Abortions offered because of the Gender of the Unborn Child.  It is argued by the prosecutor that Gender Selection Abortion is illegal under the terms of the Abortion Act 1967

I covered this issue in my Blog post "Is Sex Selective Abortion Illegal ?  8 September 2013" when I came to the reluctant conclusion that Sex Selective Abortion, though morally repugnant, was not illegal.  I therefore do not expect the private prosecution to succeed however I wish the prosecutors well and will be delighted if I am proved wrong and the Abortionist in question is convicted.

Finally on a Non Abortion , but linked, issue the Court of Appeal are currently considering whether Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in a child caused by the grossly excessive drinking of his mother during her pregnancy could be a crime under s23 Offences Against the Person Act 1861. 

23 Maliciously administering poison, &c. so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.
Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to be administered to or taken by any other person any poison or other destructive or noxious thing, so as thereby to endanger the life of such person, or so as thereby to inflict upon such person any grievous bodily harm, shall be guilty 

The issue in the case does not involve an actual prosecution but relates to an attempt to obtain some financial compensation for the severely injured child involved.  Since the Mother has no money the claim was pursued under the Criminal Injuries Compensation scheme which is why it was necessary to argue that the conduct was a crime.  As a practicing criminal lawyer, I do not believe that this case will lead to pregnant women being prosecuted over their drinking or other habits it will I think be seen by the Court of Appeal that the criminal law is being used as a "peg" for a civil claim. 

That said though I am very sympathetic to the Child in the case I think there may be real problems in establishing that the mother, however excessive her drinking, was acting either unlawfully or maliciously and that problem was what caused the case to be lost in the Upper Tribunal in CICA v FTT and CP (CIC) [2013] UKUT 638 (AAC).  We shall just have to wait and see what the Court of Appeal decides.

Incidentally I was slightly involved in the case wearing my Thomas More Legal Centre hat.  The Abortion provider BPAS and the organisation Birthrights applied to become Intervenors in the case in order to argue for the complete bodily autonomy of the woman so I became involved acting for the Pro-Life Alliance in arguing as Intervenor for the equal rights and dignity of the unborn child

It may well be that the Court of Appeal will ignore both interventions and concentrate instead on the wording of the 1861 Act and the details of the Criminal Injuries scheme but I am glad to have had some small part in ensuring that the arguments of BPAS were countered and the Court was reminded that unborn children are human and entitled to respect and dignity


Anonymous said...

Good article. It helps to understand it better. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

So you are the one stirring the pot and bringing all these "religious freedom" claims are you.

I am glad to have found you. Who is funding you and why, that is the really interesting question.

richardhj said...

Good to see you are back.

I had just started to read your blog when you seemed to go quiet. Hope to be reading and contributing more in the near future

Neil Addison said...

Who is funding you" ?

Sorry to interrupt your conspiracy fantasies Anonymous but nobody "funds me" I do what I do in my own time and at my own expense because I believe in it.

If anyone would like to fund me I would be delighted to hear from them !