Published: Sun, June 10, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

North Ireland abortion law illegal: U.K. court

North Ireland abortion law illegal: U.K. court

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 also said that a majority of justices would have ruled the current Northern Ireland law incompatible with the European Convention on Human rights (ECHR), raising the pressure on London and Belfast to change their legislation.

Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson said the law is incompatible in restricting abortion in cases of rape and incest and fatal fetal abnormality.

It is only permitted if a woman's life is at risk, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

It is, therefore, incompatible with the right to respect for privacy and family life, as guaranteed by the European convention on human rights.

"This ruling makes clear that there is no legal requirement for a law change in Northern Ireland".

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.

It noted that one online provider had reported that 1,217 women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland "received the medical abortion pill" from their service in 2017.

"We acknowledge that this is a technical victory; however, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has dismissed the case brought by the Human Rights Commission".

The judges decided, however, that they could not officially issue a ruling as the NICHR could only bring cases through specific victims, not on general principles.

The statistics also show that 919 women and girls gave addresses in Northern Ireland last year - an increase of over 25% on the year before and the highest level since 2011. He added: "We should all approach the matter of abortion with the seriousness and maturity that the discussion deserves". "Change on this is needed and needed now", said Breedagh Hughes, Royal College of Midwives Director for Northern Ireland.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the NIHRC had questions to answer about the cost of taking the case and why "it chose to act beyond its competence in such a sensitive issue". Illegal abortions could be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

Candle and flowers are placed in front of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin as Ireland has voted to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution which prohibits abortions unless a mother's life is in danger. "Today I believe we have voted for the next generation", he said. Following her death, people took to streets to call for immediate reforms in the country's abortion laws. The vote will remove a 1983 amendment that required Irish authorities to defend the lives of a woman and a fetus equally on nearly all abortions.

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