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UK top court says it can't demand #abortion law change in #NorthernIreland

10 June 2018

The Supreme Court earlier ruled that Northern Ireland abortion laws in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality were incompatible with Convention on Human Rights, but added it did not have the powers to make a formal declaration that the law should be changed.

The case's dismissal means the government is not obliged to change the law, but the seven judges have given a strong nod that reform is needed.

A Northern Irish woman gave evidence to the Supreme Court about having to travel overseas for a termination after being told her baby could not survive.

Despite not issuing an official ruling, the Supreme Court had delivered a victory for reformist campaigners, said the NICHR. And nearly two-thirds, or 64%, of these had travelled from the Republic, while 19% were from Northern Ireland.

"I think there are serious questions to be asked of the Human Rights Commission about the amount of public expenditure which has gone into this case when they ought to have known from the beginning that this was beyond their remit", he said.

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"The High Court in Belfast and The Supreme Court are in agreement that the law needs to be changed, so let's just do this".

But Bernadette Smyth, director of anti-abortion campaign group Precious Life, said: "What happened here today was upholding democracy".

"Regardless of their opinions, this is a law in Northern Ireland and that is where these decisions should be made".

"Despite the majority of the judges" ruling that Northern Ireland's abortion law is in clear breach of human rights, a formal declaration of incompatibility - the declaration issued by a United Kingdom court that a statute is incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights - could not be made.

The legislation subjects women to "inhuman and degrading" treatment and is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the NIHRC argued.

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Although the decision is not a formal declaration of incompatibility, because the case has technically been dismissed, "the judgment triggered fresh calls for the government and politicians in Northern Ireland to deal with the issue" says The Guardian. The NIHRC did not have standing in this case. In doing so, it has made clear that there is no human right to abortion.

UUP leader Robin Swann urged the DUP to adopt a matter of conscience for members.

"I know it gives them heart", she said.

"Every year around 3,000 families who face the challenging news that their unborn baby has a disability of one kind or another undergo the unique tragedy of abortion, where their child's life is quite deliberately taken". The Democratic Unionist Party, the largest party, is opposed to changing the law.

In June 2017, May's government announced that Northern Irish women would be able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England.

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Wednesday's figures from the Department of Health in England and Wales show that 4,809 abortions for non-residents were carried out in England and Wales, a similar level to 2016.

UK top court says it can't demand #abortion law change in #NorthernIreland