Coronavirus abortion policy legal challenge reaches High Court

19 May 2020, 06:27

The case will be heard at the High Court on Tuesday
The case will be heard at the High Court on Tuesday. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A Christian faith group will bring a legal challenging over changes to abortion rules during the coronavirus pandemic to the High Court later.

The group are arguing that Government measures to alter the decision process around changing abortion policy under coronavirus legislation was unlawful and made without proper parliamentary scrutiny and unsafe for pregnant women.

Christian Concern is bringing legal action against the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) over the decision, which allows women to have medical abortions at home following a phone or video consultation.

Ahead of the legal action, Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: "The Government changed the law on a matter of life and death without reference to Parliament. The Government did this after expressly stating on the floor of the House of Commons and House of Lords that this would not happen.

"The UK Government is going to extraordinary lengths to protect lives due to the threat of Covid-19. It appears to fail to see the irony in opening up access to abortion and counting the lives that will be lost as a result of such action.

"If this practice goes unchallenged there will be no going back and that is tragic for women and their children."

The case will be heard before two senior judges in London on Tuesday.

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The Christian group announced plans to pursue legal action last month, after a double U-turn by the DHSC over abortion rules during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ministers initially said that women and girls would be allowed to take abortion pills at home and for doctors to prescribe from their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hours later, the statement was removed from the department's website, with officials saying it was "published in error".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that abortion rules would not be changed as part of the response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

But days later, the policy changed again, with the department saying those needing an abortion up to 10 weeks can use abortion pills at home after a consultation with a medical practitioner over the phone or on the internet.

The measures will last for up to two years.

The hearing, before Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Chamberlain, is due to start at 10.30am.