Supreme Court rejects NI Human Rights Commission abortion law appeal

Supreme Court rejects NI abortion law appeal

Supreme Court rejects NI abortion law appeal

The UK Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday indicated disapproval [judgment, PDF] of Northern Ireland's strict abortion law [text, PDF], though ultimately dismissed the appeal brought by challengers of the legislation.

However, the court proceeded to rule that notwithstanding this decision, the current law in Northern Ireland is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights due to its blanket ban on abortions in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality (5:2), rape (4:3) and incest (4:3).

The court agreed that Northern Ireland's abortion laws are "disproportionate and incompatible", with human rights legislation, as stated in the court's press summary [text, PDF].

Currently, 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.

Still, Justice Brian Kerr said the justices' announcement on the human rights convention "must be worthy of close consideration by those in whose power it lies to decide whether the law should be altered".

British-ruled Northern Ireland is left as the only part of Britain or Ireland with such a restrictive regime, after voters in the Irish republic backed the removal of a ban in a landslide vote last month that sparked calls for change in the North.

In June 2017 the government announced women from Northern Ireland will be able to get free abortions in England.

"Nor do they cite D v Ireland, where the European Court rejected an application claiming a right to access abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality.a decision which runs completely contrary to the Supreme Court's findings".

Hers was one of three cases referred to in the Supreme Court judgment.

The BBC's health correspondent in Northern Ireland calls the situation "a weird set of circumstances". The judges said if it was an individual who had brought this case who had been a victim of this law they would have been likely to side with them.

"In making their claim, the judges frequently refer to A, B, and C v Ireland as a basis for their findings but ignore paragraph 214 of the majority opinion which states that article 8 can not be interpreted as conferring a right to access abortion".

Women in Northern-Ireland who are faced with unwanted pregnancies have the option to travel to England, Wales or Scotland to have an abortion.

Peter Lynas, spokesman for the pro-life group Both Lives Matter, commented that "The Northern Ireland Assembly had a full debate on this in 2016 and didn't want to make any changes to the law".

The push for the legalization of abortion in Northern Ireland is not a new campaign, and has gained traction with the overturn of an abortion ban in the Republic of Ireland only weeks ago. Following her death, people took to streets to call for immediate reforms in the country's abortion laws.

"To Theresa May, I would say, "We need change and help".

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