UK's top court says Northern Ireland's abortion ban violates human rights

Sunday, 10 Jun, 2018

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission does not have standing to challenge Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

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.

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".

Pressure has been mounting on Northern Ireland to change its laws, which ban abortion in almost all cases, since the Irish referendum cleared the way for the repeal of a constitutional amendment that imposed similar restrictions.

SOME 3,091 Irish women and girls travelled to England and Wales for abortions in 2017, according to new UK Department of Health figures.

The Northern Ireland Assembly voted in February 2016 against legalising abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and rape or incest.

And on Thursday, the United Kingdom's highest court dismissed a bid to overturn Northern Ireland's restrictive measure. And nearly two-thirds, or 64%, of these had travelled from the Republic, while 19% were from Northern Ireland. While campaigners across the world are rejoicing the victory, they are also remembering India's Savita Halappanavar who is said to be the trigger behind the referendum. "What now will happen is that we have issued proceedings in today in Belfast in Sarah's name to have that formal declaration made and our work will continue at Westminster to ensure that long overdue legislative change happens", she said. He added: "We should all approach the matter of abortion with the seriousness and maturity that the discussion deserves".

"The analysis and comments from the court on the issue of incompatibility will be clearly heard by this House and politicians in Northern Ireland".

"Hundreds of women travel to England to obtain the procedure in any given year, or risk prosecution by using illegal pills that induce a miscarriage".

"This is a landmark decision that I hope will lead to changes that will improve the lives of women in Northern Ireland and the care they receive".

The Supreme Court's majority view was the ban in those specific cases was not compatible with article 8 of the ECHR - the right for respect for private and family life.

"No binding United Nations treaty has ever suggested that there is an global right to access abortion".

"It is so incredibly important to lobby for life at this present point in time because of the stark threat to unborn children here as Northern Ireland faces a great deal of political instability", said Precious Life, a pro-life group in Northern Ireland, in August 2017.