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Health Department reveals new guidelines on abortion are to be sent to the Executive within weeks

The Department of Health has confirmed that it intends to circulate new guidelines on the circumstances when a pregnancy can be terminated in Northern Ireland to the Executive in the next number of weeks.

The Health Minister accepted the need to issue these guidelines following a judicial review initiated by the Family Planning Association. The guidelines themselves have been subject to public consultation. A number of concerns have been raised by various members of the medical profession.

The publication of guidelines to outline the law in Northern Ireland has continued to be a difficult and sensitive matter. The Court of Appeal directed that such guidelines be published as far back as 2004.

Very recently the media reported on 2 pregnant women whose unborn children suffered from fatal foetal abnormalities. In Northern Ireland it is not legal to terminate a pregnancy due to a foetal abnormality, meaning both women needed to travel to England for a termination. This has led to calls for the Department of Health to review the law as a whole in this field.

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