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Politicians and campaigners react to Supreme Court decision on NI abortion law

Grainne Teggart (right), pictured with Sarah Ewart (centre) outside the Supreme Court, Westminster where UK's highest court ruled on Northern Ireland's abortion law challenge. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

THERE has been a mixed reaction from politicians and campaigners on the decision by the Supreme Court to reject an appeal over the legality of Northern Ireland's abortion law.

The court dismissed an appeal brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said the ruling must force the British government to urgently legislate for change.

"The highest court in the land has ruled that the UK is in breach of its own human rights obligations to women in Northern Ireland who are governed by this draconian law," she said.

"This is hugely significant and makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue.

"All eyes are now on the UK government. Theresa May can no longer sit back ...This must be the final nail in the coffin for Northern Ireland's abortion ban."

Richard Bentley, from Marie Stopes, said they were "dismayed with this decision".

"We call on politicians in Belfast and Westminster to take decisive action now to ensure Northern Irish women are finally afforded the care and compassion they deserve".

Alliance's Paula Bradshaw said: "Abortion is a conscience issue for Alliance but I share the Secretary of State's now publicly stated view in favour of abortion law reform in Northern Ireland.

"Regardless of anyone's views, everyone should agree the issue would be best dealt with by a local Assembly.

"However, we are now in a position where even if a vote went in favour of reform, it could be blocked by just a third of MLAs. Clearly that must be changed."

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey said she was "disappointed that the court did not find in favour of the NIHRC".

"I would like to pay tribute to the women who intervened in this case and gave their personal testimonies on the appalling impact of abortion law in Northern Ireland".

"The pressure is mounting and the tide is turning. Northern Ireland will not be left behind".

But the ruling was welcomed by a pro-life campaign groups.

"It is obviously not a cause of celebration, but rather a moment to pause and be thankful for the lives this judgment will save," said

Peter Lynas of the Evangelical Alliance.

Director of Precious Life Bernadette Smyth welcomed the ruling which she said "reaffirms that abortion is a devolved issue for Northern Ireland Assembly, and the Supreme Court, or any court, do not have the power to overturn our life-saving, pro-life laws that protect unborn babies and their mothers.”

Nola Leach from Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) also said: "We particularly welcome the fact that the Supreme Court again reaffirmed that there is no human right to abortion and that there is nothing in this judgment to say that abortion on request is required by human rights law."

Tracy Harkin from Iona Institute for Religion and Society said: "We welcome the fact that this ruling makes clear that it is not for the courts to change our pro-life laws, but for legislators, whether at Stormont or Westminster".

Liam Gibson of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said: "While we welcome the recognition of the value of the lives of people with serious disabilities, it is appalling that judges in the UK Supreme Court do not place the same value on the lives of children with life-limiting conditions or who have been conceived through sexual crimes".

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