North­ern Ire­land abor­tion laws crit­i­cised

Weekend Herald - - World -

Bri­tain’s Supreme Court has crit­i­cised North­ern Ire­land’s strict an­tiabor­tion laws but dis­missed a le­gal chal­lenge.

A ma­jor­ity of the court de­cided that the North­ern Ire­land Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, which ini­ti­ated the case, did not have the stand­ing to bring the chal­lenge to the abor­tion law. The court dis­missed the case with­out tak­ing ac­tion.

The jus­tices went on to say, how­ever, that a ma­jor­ity finds North­ern Ire­land’s abor­tion pro­hi­bi­tions “dis­pro­por­tion­ate” and that they vi­o­late Euro­pean hu­man rights laws.

That part of the rul­ing gave hope to abor­tion rights ac­tivists seek­ing to lib­er­alise North­ern Ire­land’s laws.

Strict North­ern Ire­land laws that pro­hibit abor­tions in cases of preg­nancy as a re­sult of in­cest or rape, and in cases when the foe­tus has a likely fa­tal ab­nor­mal­ity, have drawn scru­tiny since the Repub­lic of Ire­land voted over­whelm­ingly in May to re­peal its own strict laws.

When Ire­land re­places the con­sti­tu­tional ban with more lib­eral leg­is­la­tion af­ter a de­bate in Par­lia­ment, North­ern Ire­land will be the only re­main­ing re­gion in Bri­tain and Ire­land to out­law the pro­ce­dure.

Rosa Curl­ing, from the law firm Leigh Day that helped bring the le­gal chal­lenge, called the court’s rul­ing “a mo­men­tous day for women in North­ern Ire­land” and said it is now up to Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May to take ac­tion to ease the laws. She said May had an obli­ga­tion to make sure the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment is “no longer act­ing un­law­fully by breach­ing the hu­man rights of women across North­ern Ire­land.” AP

Theresa May

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