U.K. Government Debates Changing Northern Ireland’s Abortion Laws

Jun 09, 2018, 18:59
U.K. Government Debates Changing Northern Ireland’s Abortion Laws

"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".

Five of the seven justices in the high court concluded that Northern Ireland's abortion law violated European conventions in not allowing abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities.

However, a different four of the seven ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which had initiated legal proceedings to try to liberalize the law, did not have the right to bring the case.

But the UK's Supreme Court ruled it had no jurisdiction to consider the legal challenge because the case wasn't brought forward from a victim who was pregnant as a result of rape or who was carrying a fetus with a fatal abnormality.

Currently, women can only access an abortion in Northern Ireland if their life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to physical or mental health.

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The commission past year argued that the current law criminalises "exceptionally vulnerable" women and girls and subjects them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

Lord Mance, the Deputy President of the Supreme Court, made the case for an immediate change in the law very powerfully in his comments in the judgment.

"This must be the final nail in the coffin for Northern Ireland's abortion ban".

When Ireland replaces the constitutional ban with more liberal legislation after a debate in parliament, Northern Ireland will be the only remaining region in Britain and Ireland to outlaw the procedure. 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. [It] makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue.

But that decision was overturned in June past year by three of Northern Ireland's most senior judges.

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Theresa May was today urged to defy her DUP backers and to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

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.

"We'll now finish what we started by taking this to the Belfast High Court to demand it makes the final formal declaration". "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

With the cabinet reaching either a breaking point or a decision on a Brexit backstop, - it's not clear yet which- the Northern Ireland border is likely to take priority just now over Northern Ireland abortion in the fevered brains of ministers.

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