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Supreme Court dismisses appeal over NI abortion law

08 June, 2018, 08:29 | Author: Lucille Rivera
  • Stella Creasy in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon  Credit

But though some British lawmakers have floated the idea of changing the abortion law directly from London, Prime Minister Theresa May is unlikely to push for such a change.

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".

The human-rights commission argued that the province's abortion laws were incompatible with the ECHR rules, which protects the right to terminate pregnancies in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, rape and incest.

As a result, the justices said the Supreme Court "has no jurisdiction" in the proceedings to strike down the law.

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal brought by campaigners to change Northern Ireland's abortion laws despite concluding they are "incompatible" with human rights legislation.

However, a majority of the judges also said that the body which had brought the case before the court - The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission - did not have the authority to do so. "Westminster must act now to decriminalise abortion across the United Kingdom and grant basic bodily autonomy to the women of Northern Ireland".

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had challenged the law in court.

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Giving his opinion, Lord Kerr praised three "enormously fearless women" who gave "unsparing accounts" of having to deal with a pregnancy where they knew their babies were "doomed to die".

"The courage of these women in giving unsparing accounts of their experiences is wholly admirable".

"Nor could they fail to have profound sympathy with the awful ordeal which they had to endure". "A dispassionate analysis of the legal issues was needed".

Four of the judges (Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson) said the current law in Northern Ireland "is disproportionate and incompatible" with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which deals with "the right to respect for private and family life") in all three of the circumstances the court was considering - namely fatal foetal abnormalities, pregnancy as a result of rape, and pregnancy as a result of incest. "But the nature of their suffering and the trauma of their experiences were by no means irrelevant to the resolution of those hard legal issues".

That part of the ruling gave hope to abortion rights activists seeking to liberalize Northern Ireland's laws.

Speaking to assembled media on Thursday morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, stated that the issues relating to Northern Ireland's abortion law should be decided "by the people who live in Northern Ireland".

"No formal declaration has been made by the court and the appeal has been dismissed, but the analysis and comments from the court on the issue of incompatibility will be clearly heard by the House of Commons and politicians in Northern Ireland".

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