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U.K. Government Debates Changing Northern Ireland’s Abortion Laws

U.K. Government Debates Changing Northern Ireland’s Abortion Laws

During the three-day appeal hearing, a QC representing the commission argued that human rights were being breached, with those affected being forced to go through "physical and mental torture".

Human rights campaigners have a lost a Supreme Court case against Northern Ireland's law on abortion.

"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.

A termination is now only permitted if there is a serious risk to a woman's life or her health.

The commission previous year argued that the current law criminalises "exceptionally vulnerable" women and girls and subjects them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment. One group of activists drove around Northern Ireland distributing abortion pills.

The debate on Northern Ireland's restrictions on abortion has intensified after citizens in the Irish Republic voted by a landslide last month to liberalise the state's laws.

"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 court does not have jurisdiction to make a declaration of incompatibility [with human rights law] in this case.

The commission welcomed the court's opinion that the law was incompatible with the European Convention, but said it was disappointed in the ruling that it did not have sufficient powers to take the case.

Amnesty International and women who have been directly impacted by the abortion law intervened in the case, providing evidence that the near total abortion ban is a violation of women's rights.

"All eyes are now on the UK Government", Teggart added. Since the Irish referendum was approved, British Prime Minister Theresa May has dealt with mounting pressure to reform Northern Ireland's abortion statutes.

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.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said abortion is a devolved matter and should only be dealt with by Stormont, which is now suspended.

Speaking to assembled media on Thursday morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, stated that the issues relating to Northern Ireland's abortion law should be decided "by the people who live in Northern Ireland".

What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?


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