Human Rights Commission to take abortion case to the Supreme Court

A HUMAN rights body has received judicial authorisation to appeal a new ruling on Northern Ireland's abortion regime to the UK's highest court.

Senior judges in Belfast today granted leave for a further challenge to their determination that the near-blanket ban on terminations is not unlawful.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will take its case to the Supreme Court in London.

Confirmation came 24 hours after the Court of Appeal overturned a previous verdict that the restrictions were incompatible with human rights legislation.

It held that the issue should be dealt with by the Stormont assembly.

Attorney General John Larkin QC and the Department of Justice had both appealed the earlier finding.

Unlike other parts of the UK, terminations are only legal within Northern Ireland to protect the woman's life or if there is a risk of serious damage to her well-being.

In 2015 the High Court judge ruled the failure to provide abortions for cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and to victims of rape or incest breaches private and family life entitlements under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a case brought by the commission, a judge also made a formal declaration that the legislation is incompatible with the UK's obligations under the Human Rights Act.

During the legal battle arguments were made on behalf of Sarah Ewart - a woman from Northern Ireland who travelled to England for an abortion after learning her unborn baby had no chance of survival. The court heard claims that the almost complete ban is inhuman and discriminatory.

Appeal judges, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Gillen and Lord Justice Weatherup quashed the High Court declaration on Thursday.

By a majority view they concluded that the court should not intervene, instead leaving it for the Assembly to decide on any changes to abortion laws.

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