United Kingdom court criticizes Northern Ireland abortion law but rejects bid for reform

Clay Curtis
June 7, 2018

According to Precious Life, a pro-life group in Northern Ireland, the pro-abortion Labour MP Stella Creasy has secured an emergency debate on Northern Ireland's abortion laws June 5 in the UK's House of Commons.

Britain's Supreme Court said on Thursday that Northern Ireland's strict abortion law was incompatible with human rights, but also said it did not have the powers to make a formal ruling that the law should be changed.

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.

"Abortion in cases where there is a fatal fetal abnormality or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest is available throughout the vast majority of countries in Europe", Supreme Court Justice Brian Kerr said in his written judgment in support of the court's conclusions.

NIHRC told the court in October that the current law criminalizes women and girls, subjecting them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

She added that the issue has "long been devolved" to Northern Ireland and outside the purview of the parliament in Westminster.

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

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

Mr Corbyn made his intervention as MPs were debating repealing sections of a 150-year-old law that criminalises abortion.

"I would like to pay tribute to the women who intervened in this case and gave their personal testimonies on the appalling impact of abortion law in Northern Ireland".

Theresa May has since faced mounting pressure from MPs and the public to amend the law in Northern Ireland - where abortion is still illegal. The prime minister must commit to reforming abortion law immediately or be complicit in the harm and inequality caused by the existing law.

"Labour's position has always been that abortion rights should be extended, without fear or favour, across the whole of the United Kingdom".

Termination in Northern Ireland is restricted to cases where there is a threat to a woman's life or serious risk to her physical or mental health, while Ireland voted to change the constitution on the issue following last month's referendum.

Anyone who unlawfully carries out an abortion could be jailed for life.

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