Supreme Court rejects Northern Ireland abortion law case

10 June, 2018, 16:21 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • Stella Creasy in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon  Credit

Those responsible for ensuring the compatibility of Northern Ireland law with the Convention rights will no doubt recognise and take account of these conclusions, at as early a time as possible, by considering whether and how to amend the law, in the light of the ongoing suffering being caused by it'.

Supreme Court judges said the existing law in Northern Ireland was incompatible with human rights law, but dismissed an appeal by the Human Rights Commission on technical grounds.

This is because the court found that the Northern Irish Human Rights Commission (the body that brought the case) did not have the power to bring these proceedings forward, as it was not itself a "victim' of any unlawful act".

The court was therefore unable to make a declaration, despite the fact that a majority of judges held that current laws are incompatible with human rights legislation in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormality.

As it now stands, abortion is only legal in Northern Ireland if the life of the woman is endangered.

Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC had argued against the NIHRC case, saying that the Province's law on abortion was a matter for the "democratic judgment" of the legislature.

May has said that the abortion issue should be decided by Northern Ireland's devolved government. [It] makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue.


"Abortion has been a devolved matter in Northern Ireland since it was created in 1921, and it would not be appropriate for Westminster to seek to impose its will, or to be the arbiter of an issue that has always been devolved to the people of Northern Ireland". She would like parliament to repeal parts of the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, thereby decriminalizing abortion in Northern Ireland.

This surely means the UK Government must now act to change the law.

Sarah Ewart said: "I'm not only doing this for me, but for every woman who may find themselves in my situation".

What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that abortion is a devolved matter and should only be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Assembly, which is now suspended. It is now time to listen to the women of the United Kingdom and ensure safe, accessible abortion - which saves and improves lives - is available to everyone who needs it.

MsEwart, who has campaigned for change alongside Amnesty International since her abortion, said Northern Ireland's politicians should put their "religious beliefs behind them and do their job".

"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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