Monday, 18 February, 2019

‘Give N. Ireland same control DUP has over this govt’

Ireland abortion laws Ireland abortion laws
Melinda Barton | 10 June, 2018, 19:27

A majority of a seven-strong panel of Supreme Court justices ruled the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) had no legal standing to bring its challenge against the abortion law, and it could only have been brought by a woman impacted by the abortion ban.

"The judges made absolutely clear that if a woman was brought forward they would find that our laws are incompatible with human rights", said Les Allamby, chief commissioner of Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

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.

Still, Justice Brian Kerr said the justices' announcement on the human rights convention "must be worthy of close consideration by those in whose power it lies to decide whether the law should be altered".

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been under pressure to intervene to liberalise Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws following the Irish result.

Their Lordships made very clear that the current state of the law in Northern Ireland is "untenable" and their judgment can not be "safely ignored". The law does not, however, take into consideration pregnancy by rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality, which is when doctors determine if the unborn child has a life-threatening condition and will most likely die either in the womb or shortly after birth.

As a result, they did not make a formal declaration of incompatibility, which would normally lead to a change in the law.

The BBC's health correspondent in Northern Ireland calls the situation "a freaky set of circumstances".

"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. "For these reasons, we concluded that the blanket ban on abortion in cases of rape was plainly disproportionate". "But the analysis and comments from the court on the issue of incompatibility will be clearly heard by this House and politicians in Northern Ireland".

Amnesty International said this must force the UK Government to urgently legislate for change.

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the NIHRC had questions to answer about the cost of taking the case and why "it made a decision to act beyond its competence in such a sensitive issue". The law also introduced a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for having or assisting in an unlawful abortion.

On May 28, abortion activists gathered at the main court buildings in Belfast to protest the country's pro-life laws, and several women publicly took abortion pills.

"When examined closely, providing abortion on such grounds would fly in the face of the Taoiseach's commitment that any new law would be restrictive and that abortion would be rare". "I hope this ruling means that things will change so no more women have to go through what I, and so many others, already have".