Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal Over Legality Of Abortion Law In NI

09 June, 2018, 18:59 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Stella Creasy in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon  Credit

The Supreme Court will rule today on whether or not Northern Ireland's abortion law amounts to a violation of human rights.

"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".

Rosa Curling, a solicitor with Leigh Day, representing a coalition of pro-choice organisations, said there were "no longer any excuses" to deny women in Northern Ireland the same rights granted to women elsewhere in the UK.

Despite the decision, a majority of the seven-strong panel of justices in London expressed the "clear opinion" that the current legislation is "incompatible" with European human rights laws in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest. It can not wait for the Northern Ireland Assembly to reconvene and potentially act - it must now act itself.

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The ruling on a technicality will come as a relief for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who previously said that the province should decide its own abortion policy. The court dismissed the case without taking action. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

Sarah Ewart, a woman who was forced to travel to the United Kingdom for an abortion after being told her baby would not survive, intervened alongside Amnesty in the case.

Four of the seven justices said the law violated European conventions by not allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said abortion is a devolved matter and should only be dealt with by Stormont, which is now suspended.

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Earlier Theresa May met Conservative MPs pressing for changes to Northern Ireland's abortion laws amid calls for an emergency debate on the issue. "What we need is compassion and services in Northern Ireland". They want MPs to attend the debate and stress that the democratic process in Northern Ireland be respected. Labour MP Stella Creasy said the referendum to legalise abortion in the Irish Republic was an historic moment that should usher in change in Northern Ireland.

Lord Manse stated: "the present law clearly needs radical reconsideration".

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". Amnesty is calling for the repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which would decriminalise abortion and enable a Human Right compliant healthcare framework to be put in place.

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