UK Supreme Court criticizes Northern Ireland abortion laws

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By a majority ruling, judges at the Supreme Court in London found that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had no legal standing to bring its challenge against the abortion law.

"We took this case to bring greater clarity to the law and we welcome the court's decision", Les Allamby, chief commissioner of the NIHRC, said.

The NIHRC argued in October 2017 that the current law subjects women to "inhuman and degrading" treatment, causing "physical and mental torture" as it bans abortion in cases of rape, incest or serious foetal anomaly.

"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. One group of activists drove around Northern Ireland distributing abortion pills.

This view was shared by four of the seven judges.

But three of Northern Ireland's most senior judges overturned that decision in June a year ago, saying it was a question for the elected assembly, not the courts.

There have been calls for the UK Parliament to legislate for abortion reform in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning devolved government.

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"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".

The PM has so far resisted calls to act in Northern Ireland following last month's landslide vote in the Irish Republic to liberalize its own laws.

As recently as 2016 MLAs in Stormont backed the existing protections, a decision welcomed by The Christian Institute as challenging "those who wish to sell abortion as a positive choice whilst devaluing the lives of the most vulnerable in our society". "What we need is compassion and services in Northern Ireland".

"I am proud of that pro-life position, I am proud of the fact that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of both women and of the unborn child and we will maintain that position".

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

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is also saying that Westminster can not decide to reform Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

Lord Kerr stated that the answer to the breaches of human rights could be achieved through an amendment to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (NI) 1945.

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