Fight to overhaul Northern Ireland's abortion laws goes to Supreme Court

The Supreme court will hear a legal challenge on Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws
Seanín Graham

A LEGAL challenge to Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws will take place in the Supreme Court in London today.

The case is being brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which is calling for abortion to be legalised in cases of rape, incest, and serious foetal abnormality.

The Commission say the north's existing laws, which only permits terminations if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health, is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

A number of healthcare charities and trade unions are backing the action, including the Family Planning Association, FPA, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and the Royal College of Midwives.

Two years ago, the Belfast High Court ruled that the current law violated human rights legislation by not allowing terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or sexual crime.

However, the Department of Justice and the north's Attorney General John Larkin QC successfully appealed this ruling, which led to the action by the Commission.

The Court of Appeal ruled that it was the role of Stormont rather than local courts to decide the law.

Today's Supreme Court action comes five months after landmark legislation was introduced which allowed women from the north to access free NHS abortions in England for the first time.

The hearing date coincides with pro-abortion campaigners receiving the Liberty Human Rights Award for their 50-year campaign for free, safe and legal abortions in Northern Ireland.

Alliance for Choice, the London-Irish abortion rights organisation, lawyer and campaigner Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and the Family Planning Association will collect the Long Walk Award tomorrow.


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