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Northern Ireland Secretary Brendan Lewis failed to provide full abortion services.

A High Court judge has ruled that Northern Ireland Secretary Brendan Lewis has failed in his duty to provide full abortion services in the region.

The decision came as the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission launched a judicial review against the secretary, as well as the Northern Ireland executive and the region’s health department for failing to fund her abortion services.

Claims against the health minister, Robin Swann and the executive were rejected.

But regarding Mr Lewis, Mr Justice Colton said: “The court declared that between April 2020 and March 2021 the Secretary of State had failed to perform his duties under Section 9 of the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act 2019 because They have failed to ensure that the state provides women with access to high quality abortion and post-abortion care in all public services in Northern Ireland.

Mr Colton did not order Mr Lewis to set a timetable for the services. The trial was conducted by a woman who was affected by the lack of commissioning services during the epidemic when she was asked to go to England for an abortion. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission supported her case.

In 2019, abortion was outlawed in Northern Ireland following a law passed by Westminster. Since then, Stormont’s health department has not commissioned or funded the services. Some health trusts offer services on an ad hoc basis.

Following legal action earlier this year, Mr. Lewis formally instructed Stormont to commission the services before the end of March 2022.

Delivering his judgment in Belfast High Court on Thursday, Mr Colton said: “Those in public office, including the judiciary, must obey and apply the law.

“It should not be necessary for a court to make a mandatory decision through a judicial review in situations where persons in public office are unwilling to comply with their legal obligations because they do not agree with the relevant law.”

Allison Kill Patrick, chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, responded: “This was an important issue for the Commission to uphold the human rights of women and girls in Northern Ireland.

We welcome the decision of the High Court and now it will take time to assess the impact of the decision.

The NI executive has a responsibility to uphold the human rights of women and girls.

“We will continue to monitor progress on service commissioning and funding in Northern Ireland.”

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