UK Supreme Court criticizes Northern Ireland abortion laws

10 June, 2018, 16:18 | Author: Myra Gill
  • Don’t ask Northern Irish women to beg for their human rights with an abortion referendum

It was ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission did not have the power to bring a case, due to the law's rights not being infringed with.

Strict Northern Ireland laws that prohibit abortions in cases of pregnancy as a result of incest or rape, and in cases when the fetus has a likely fatal abnormality, have drawn scrutiny since the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in May to repeal its own strict laws.

He said the law in Northern Ireland had been shown to reduce the number of abortions in the jurisdiction, and said: "For that reason I am very thoughtful about any change in the law in Northern Ireland".

Despite the obvious point that the Northern Ireland Assembly has not been in existence for over a year and doesn't look likely return in the near future, and the fact that it failed to act for many years before then, the fundamental point is that access to abortion is a human rights issue.

Following last month's Irish referendum result, Northern Ireland will soon be the only part of either the United Kingdom or Ireland where abortion is illegal unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health.

The Supreme Court today delivered its judgment on a 2017 hearing considering whether Northern Ireland's near total abortion ban violates women's rights.


However, a different group of four justices ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which had initiated legal proceedings to try and liberalise the law, did not have the right to bring the case.

"This is hugely significant and makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue". Since the Irish referendum was approved, British Prime Minister Theresa May has dealt with mounting pressure to reform Northern Ireland's abortion statutes.

The majority of judges - five out of seven - ruled in favour that the Northern Ireland abortion law is in breach of women's rights. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

"In the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, it becomes a human rights issue, not simply a matter of policy that's devolved to Northern Ireland".

For Sinn Fein, Mrs O'Neill said she wanted repeal of the relevant sections of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act to ensure abortion was no longer treated as a criminal offence in the region.

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". They want MPs to attend the debate and stress that the democratic process in Northern Ireland be respected.

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