High Court rules Northern Ireland abortion prohibition in breach of human rights

Voice for Choice welcomes the judgment in the High Court in Belfast today that abortion law in Northern Ireland breaches the European Convention on Human Rights by prohibiting abortion for fatal fetal abnormality and pregnancies that result from rape or incest.

Alliance for Choice said ‘We welcome the increased access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland, in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape and incest. We particularly welcome Justice Horner’s comments on the disparity faced by poorer women who often have to turn to charity assistance to access healthcare services in the UK.

We also welcome the clarification that the right to life from conception is not protected by the common law of Northern Ireland. We would like to thank the NIHRC for taking this case on behalf of women in Northern Ireland…’

FPA said it was a progressive step in the provision of women’s reproductive rights across Northern Ireland.

BPAS issued a statement: ‘This judgment recognises the right to autonomy and privacy of pregnant women with a diagnosis of fatal fetal anomaly and those who are victims of a sexual crime. We welcome this ruling – and look forward to the day when the autonomy of all women in Northern Ireland is similarly acknowledged.

As noted by Justice Horner, Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation ‘smacks of one law for the rich and one law for the poor’. It does not prevent women having abortions but exports the problem overseas. Today’s ruling will not change this for the majority of women from Northern Ireland, who will continue to endure a significant financial and emotion burden to access the abortion care they need. Rather than reinterpreting existing legislation, we should seek to remove abortion  from the criminal law altogether, and trust pregnant women to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families free from the threat of prosecution.’

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) brought the case. Welcoming the judgment, Les Allamby, the head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), said: “In taking this case we sought to change the law so that women and girls in Northern Ireland have the choice of accessing a termination of pregnancy locally in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormalities, rape or incest, without being criminalised for doing so.

“We are please that today that the high court has held that the current law is incompatible with human rights and has ruled in the commission’s favour.

“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.” Northern Ireland Law on Abortion Ruled Incompatible With Human Rights, Guardian, November 30th 2015