Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal Over Legality Of Abortion Law In NI

10 June, 2018, 16:20 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • Theresa May’s intervention will encourage other MPs to follow suit

Five of the seven justices in the high court concluded that Northern Ireland's abortion law violated European conventions in not allowing abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities.

The Supreme Court will rule today on whether or not Northern Ireland's abortion law amounts to a violation of human rights.

The Supreme Court ruling, released on Thursday morning, highlights that the current law is "disproportionate and incompatible" in relation to Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

"Despite the fact that there wasn't an identified "victim" in this case, the judges felt so strongly that the evidence showed that Northern Ireland's abortion law breaches women's rights, that they dispensed with procedure and set out their conclusions anyway".

A termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The Supreme Court therefore did not deliver a formal ruling on the issue.

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"Although the court considered that it was unable to issue a declaration of incompatibility, it has clearly recognized the harm that the near-total prohibition on abortion is causing women and girls", Ms. Hoctor said. [It] makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue.

She called for the United Kingdom and Irish governments to then come together under a peace process construct called the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to discuss how to change the laws on terminations in Northern Ireland. Since the Irish referendum was approved, British Prime Minister Theresa May has dealt with mounting pressure to reform Northern Ireland's abortion statutes. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

But the case for change has received fresh impetus from the Republic of Ireland's landmark referendum vote to legalise abortion last month.

As recently as 2016 MLAs in Stormont backed the existing protections, a decision welcomed by The Christian Institute as challenging "those who wish to sell abortion as a positive choice whilst devaluing the lives of the most vulnerable in our society".

The DUP is the biggest party in Northern Ireland and also props up May's minority government, giving her the votes she needs to get Brexit legislation through the House of Commons. The Victorian law governing abortion in Northern Ireland, the 1861 Offenses Against the Persons Act, is one of the most restrictive in Europe.

"Women have been criminalised when they find themselves in very, very hard circumstances, so we welcome that debate but clearly we need to see legislative change here in the north".

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