UK's highest court to rule on legality of Northern Ireland's abortion law

UK's highest court to rule on legality of Northern Ireland's abortion law

Supreme Court judges said the existing law in Northern Ireland was incompatible with human rights law, but dismissed an appeal by the Human Rights Commission on technical grounds.

"A majority of the court does however consider that the current law in Northern Ireland is disproportionate and incompatible with Art 8 ECHR insofar as that law prohibits abortion in cases of (a) fatal foetal abnormality, (b) pregnancy as a result of rape and (c) pregnancy as a result of incest".

Supreme Court Justice Mance held that the "present legislative position in Northern Ireland is untenable" and "clearly needs radical reconsideration".

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's chief commissioner, Les Allamby, speaks to members of the media outside of the Supreme Court in London on Thursday.

A termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Submissions were also made at the Supreme Court by a number of bodies, including seven of the UK's leading reproductive rights organisations, Humanists UK, Bishops of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in Northern Ireland, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Amnesty International.

She called for the United Kingdom and Irish governments to then come together under a peace process construct called the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to discuss how to change the laws on terminations in Northern Ireland. 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.

Those responsible for ensuring the compatibility of Northern Ireland law with the Convention rights will no doubt recognise and take account of these conclusions, at as early a time as possible, by considering whether and how to amend the law, in the light of the ongoing suffering being caused by it'. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

The maximum penalty for breaking the law in Northern Ireland is life in prison. "We hope they take it".

It voted against legislating in cases of fatal fetal abnormality and rape in February 2016 and the assembly has not sat since the devolved government collapsed in January 2017.

Ms Creasy urged ministers to commit to allowing the Commons to express its opinion on the issue within the next 150 days.

Responding for the Government, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said Westminster should not seek to impose abortion.

Lord Kerr stated that the answer to the breaches of human rights could be achieved through an amendment to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (NI) 1945.

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