Stella Creasy: House must commit to abortion legal change

The UK Supreme Court's ruling that Northern Ireland's abortion law is a violation of women's human rights must force the UK Government to urgently legislate for change, Amnesty International said today.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the current law is incompatible with Article 8 of European Convention of Human Rights - that is the right to respect for private and family life - in those three circumstances.

"Abortion in cases where there is a fatal fetal abnormality or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest is available throughout the vast majority of countries in Europe", Supreme Court Justice Brian Kerr said in his written judgment in support of the court's conclusions.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's chief commissioner, Les Allamby, speaks to members of the media outside of the Supreme Court in London on Thursday.

"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".

The appeal judges said the law in Northern Ireland should be left to the Stormont Assembly and not judges, saying the complex moral and religious questions behind the issue should be determined by a legislature rather than a court.

The majority of judges - five out of seven - ruled in favour that the Northern Ireland abortion law is in breach of women's rights.

Currently, the Abortion Act 1967 does not apply in Northern Ireland, where abortion is legal only to preserve the life of the mother.

The NIHRC claims the law's effect on women is incompatible with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The decision comes after the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal its Eighth Amendment, legalising abortion for Irish women up to 12 weeks after conception "with no restriction as to reason".

"All eyes are now on the UK Government", Teggart added.

"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 must be the final nail in the coffin for Northern Ireland's abortion ban". While the case was dismissed, women's groups may have lost the battle but they are winning the war.

The ruling on a technicality will come as a relief for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who previously said that the province should decide its own abortion policy.

Northern Ireland's elected assembly, which has powers to legislate on the issue, voted against liberalising the law in February 2016.

  • Jon Douglas