Supreme Court rejects attempt to liberalise Northern Ireland abortion law

Supreme Court rejects attempt to liberalise Northern Ireland abortion law

The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal brought by campaigners to change Northern Ireland's abortion laws despite concluding they are "incompatible" with human rights legislation.

The calls come after candidates for Labour's ruling National Executive Committee called on him to use the party's "full parliamentary muscle" to force changes to Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

A majority of Britain's Supreme Court justices believe that Northern Ireland's current abortion law, which bans abortion except when a mother's life is at risk, is incompatible with human rights laws, the court said on Thursday.

In Northern Ireland, women are only permitted to terminate their pregnancy when their life is in danger or the pregnancy runs a serious risk to their mental or physical health.

Four of the judges (Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson) said the current law in Northern Ireland "is disproportionate and incompatible" with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which deals with "the right to respect for private and family life") in all three of the circumstances the court was considering - namely fatal foetal abnormalities, pregnancy as a result of rape, and pregnancy as a result of incest.

"The view from the Supreme Court is clear - politicians can no longer duck our responsibilities to properly analyse and legislate on hard issues".

Britain's Northern Ireland minister has said she would like the law to be changed, but that the matter should be decided by local politicians.

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Although the decision of the court appears highly-complex, Lady Hale also suggested that the law on abortion in Northern Ireland is no more confusing than other legal positions.

"Until such times as the legal framework caters for what are very basic human rights, our client, Sarah Ewart, has made it clear that she will continue to take the case to the highest level to ensure that no woman has to go through the traumatic experience in which she was so forced".

"This is hugely significant and makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue".

An emergency debate on the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland was held in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

"All eyes are now on the United Kingdom government".

But even though the judges formally rejected the appeal before them, the legal opinions accompanying that rejection have spurred pro-choice campaigners to say that the Westminster government must act to effectively overrule devolution in Northern Ireland, and impose reform direct from London. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women". Dylan Collins on The Architects of Business, JOE's new show in partnership with EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™, also available on iTunes and YouTube.

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