Published: Fri, June 08, 2018

Britain's top court says can not rule on Northern Ireland abortion law

Britain's top court says can not rule on Northern Ireland abortion law

The UK's highest court said on Thursday that Northern Ireland's abortion laws are incompatible with human rights legislation.

Northern Ireland's abortion laws prohibit abortion in all circumstances, except if the pregnancy puts the mother's life at risk or if it poses a risk of "serious and permanent damage" to her physical or mental health.

The three situations in question which the judges considered are fatal foetal abnormialities, pregnancy as a result of rape, and pregnancy as a result of incest. The Northern Irish law pertaining to abortion is now the strictest in the United Kingdom and permits abortion only when there is real and substantial risk of loss of the woman's life, including from a risk of suicide, that can only be averted by carrying out an abortion.

In the wake of the Irish referendum last month, which overturned a prohibition on abortion that had been part of the constitution since the 1980s, attention has turned north of the border.

"All eyes are now on those respective bodies to ensure that immediate action is taken to bring this vacuum of human rights protection to an immediate end".

Mrs Foster has said that abortion is a devolved matter and should only be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended since January 2017. Others dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale", the dystopian novel and television show in which women are subjugated in a totalitarian state. She added that the issue has "long been devolved" to Northern Ireland and outside the purview of the parliament in Westminster.

Jeremy Corbyn has told DUP leader Arlene Foster that Westminster should rule on abortion in Northern Ireland if she fails to form a government.


However, a lawmaker from the the main Unionist party, which opposes liberalizing abortion law and also props up the minority British government in London, said he was "delighted with the decision".

A DUP MLA has said the number of people murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps during World War Two is comparable to the number of abortions since laws were relaxed in England, Scotland and Wales.

"No formal declaration has been made by the court and the appeal has been dismissed, but the analysis and comments from the court on the issue of incompatibility will be clearly heard by the House of Commons and politicians in Northern Ireland".

During proceedings in October, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) argued that the current law criminalises "exceptionally vulnerable" women and girls and subjects them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

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

In its ruling, a majority of Supreme Court judges agreed, saying banning abortion in cases of rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality was incompatible with family life provisions of human rights law in Britain.

"All seven judges have also made clear that they would not have allowed abortion on the grounds of a serious malformation of the unborn child".

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