UK court rejects appeal for free abortions in Northern Ireland

It's said that the five judges were "sharply divided" on the case

The UK's highest court has rejected an appeal from a mother and daughter seeking free terminations for women from Northern Ireland on the NHS.

Supreme court justices announced their three to two majority decision in London today.

The Supreme Court challenge centred on the case of a Northern Ireland woman who became pregnant when she was 15.

She went to England with her mother for an abortion in a private clinic in 2012, at a cost of about £900 (€1023).

They originally lost their action in the high court in London in May 2014 when a judge ruled that the exclusion was lawful.

The judge concluded that the health secretary was entitled to adopt a residence-based system so that women resident in Northern Ireland were not entitled to benefit from NHS abortion services in England, even though they are UK citizens.

Delivering the ruling, Lord Wilson said it was not for the court to "address the ethical considerations which underlie the difference" in the law regarding abortion in Northern Ireland and England.

However, he said the five judges had been "sharply divided" on the case.

In Northern Ireland, abortion legislation means terminations are only permitted if a woman's life is at risk, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not circumstances in which abortions can be performed legally in Northern Ireland.