Human rights campaigners lose Northern Ireland abortion appeal

08 June, 2018, 08:30 | Author: Carlos George
  • Theresa May’s intervention will encourage other MPs to follow suit

She stressed the need for Northern Ireland's Stormont Assembly to be restored as it is now in what's called a devolved status.

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.

It asked the Supreme Court to rule that a prohibition on abortions where a pregnancy arises from rape or incest, or "involves a serious foetal abnormality", is unlawful.

As a result, the judges did not make a formal declaration of incompatibility, which would normally lead to a change in the law.

The Supreme Court opined that Northern Ireland's abortion laws are contrary to human rights.

A QC representing the commission argued that human rights were being breached, with those affected being forced to go through "physical and mental torture".

But a majority of judges said the existing law was incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

Deputy Supreme Court president Lord Mance said the present law "clearly needs radical consideration".

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"Watching MPs saying how sad they feel about situation in Northern Ireland but shrugging their duties to act to protect human rights set out in Good Friday agreement makes you wonder if they have even read it and responsibilities it gives United Kingdom parliament".

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".

"In fact, in some ways, the courts may be thought better qualified, because they are able to weigh the evidence, the legal materials, and the arguments in a dispassionate manner, without the external pressures to which legislators may be subject".

However, a majority of the seven judges presiding over the appeal declared that Northern Ireland's law on abortion is "incompatible" with Human Rights Law. "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".

She added: "I also have little doubt that there will be some women whose suffering on being denied a lawful abortion in Northern Ireland, in the three situations under discussion here, will reach the threshold of severity required to label the treatment "inhuman or degrading".

At the end of May, the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to overturn an abortion ban - prompting debate around the issue in Northern Ireland. During an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Stella Creasy put forward a motion which advocated repealing two sections of the Offences Against the Person Act.

But the Department of Justice at Stormont and Northern Ireland's attorney general challenged the judgment and won the appeal.

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