High Court rules that abortion law breaches Hum

High Court rules that abortion law breaches Human Rights legislation

JUDGES at the High Court in Belfast have ruled that abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is in breach of human rights law.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) brought the case to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to cases of serious foetal malformation, rape or incest.

Termination of pregnancy is only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk, or if there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

A judicial review found the grounds for abortion should be extended in Northern Ireland.

Mr Justice Horner said in his ruling today that women who were the victims of sexual crime and cases of fatal foetal abnormality were entitled to exemptions in the law.

He said: “In the circumstances, given this issue is unlikely to be grasped by the legislature in the foreseeable future, and the entitlement of the citizens of Northern Ireland to have their [European Convention on Human] rights protected by the courts”, the current legislation was in breach of their human rights.

It is still to be determined whether new legislation will be required to enforce the ruling.

Last year, Minister David Ford’s Department of Justice carried out a public consultation¬†on changing the law to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

However, the NIHRC claimed the consultation paper did not go far enough and said it had brought the legal proceedings as a last resort.

After Monday’s ruling, NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby said: “Today’s result is historic, and will be welcomed by many of the vulnerable women and girls who have been faced with these situations.

“It was important for the commission to take this challenge in its own name, in order to protect women and girls in Northern Ireland and we are delighted with the result.”

Amnesty International said the decision was a “hugely significant step”.

“It’s shameful that the courts have had to step in because politicians have repeatedly failed Northern Ireland’s women,” she said.

A judicial review hearing was held over three days in June, but the court waited until now to deliver its verdict.

The Department of Justice now has six weeks to decide whether or not to appeal the High Court judgement.

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