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Supreme Court to rule on legality of Northern Ireland's abortion laws as Jim Wells slated by Arlene Foster over abortion 'Holocaust' remarks

The Supreme Court will today make a ruling on Northern Ireland's abortion laws

A DECISION will be made today by the Supreme Court in London over whether Northern Ireland's strict abortions laws are breaching women's human rights.

The ruling will be announced at a time of intense political debate on the issue following the landslide result in the Republic's referendum to remove its constitutional ban on abortion.

The Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the UK, received a legal challenge last year by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) questioning the legality of the north's existing laws.

It has been asked to rule on whether a ban on abortions where a pregnancy arises from rape or incest, or involves a serious foetal abnormality, is unlawful.

The NIHRC claims the law's effect on women is incompatible with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Contesting the appeal, the Stormont Executive's senior legal adviser, Attorney General John Larkin QC, said Northern Ireland's criminal law on abortion is a matter for the "democratic judgment" of the legislature.

Abortion is illegal in the north except where a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

A heated emergency debate was held in the House of Commons on Tuesday amid mounting pressure for Westminster politicians to intervene in the absence of power-sharing in the north.

Reacting to the debate, DUP MLA Jim Wells compared the abortion regime in Britain to the Holocaust yesterday.

The former health minister claimed the numbers murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps were comparable to the number of terminations since abortion laws were relaxed in England, Scotland and Wales.

The South Down Assembly member was taking part in a radio debate on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show when a commentator with an opposing view accused the DUP of characterising pro-choice voices in British politics as "like the Nazis" and claiming there was "something worse than the Holocaust happening in England".

The South Down Assembly Member replied: "I don't think he's too far wrong."

Mr Wells, who recently lost the DUP whip after criticising the leadership, went on to say: "9.2 million people have had their lives terminated through abortion in Britain since 1967.

"That is actually more than the number of lives murdered in the gas and concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

"It is a ghastly situation - we are killing human beings. These are sentient human beings who have every right to life, who have every right to be protected."

The politician later clarified that his comparison to the Nazis was only related to the "numbers" involved.

DUP leader Arlene Foster last night said Mr Wells had been wrong to make the comparison.

"I don't agree with that," she told UTV.

"I think it's the wrong use of language and again it brings us back to the fact that this is a very emotive issue and people need to be aware of that when they are discussing it."

Mrs Foster was also asked about comments by DUP MP Sammy Wilson during Tuesday's Westminster debate when he talked about foetuses being "discarded and put in a bin".

"This is hugely emotive subject and it is a very sensitive subject and I think everybody needs to bear that in mind when they are making comments in relation to this issue," she said.

"That doesn't take away from the fact that people feel very strongly about this on both sides of the argument.

"But you know the debate has to be had and I believe the debate should be had in the Assembly, that's where it should happen."

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