Northern Ireland news

Abortion law a matter for Stormont, Court of Appeal rules

Michael McHugh, Press Association

Pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast, where the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against a lower court's ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK's Human Rights Act 

Northern Ireland's Appeal Court has said abortion reform should be left to Stormont's assembly.

It said the complex moral and religious questions behind the issue should be determined by a legislature rather than a court.

The three judges allowed an appeal against a lower court's ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK's Human Rights Act obligations.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, where abortions are illegal except where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.

Anyone who performs an illegal termination could be jailed for life.

Anti-abortion campaigner Bernie Smyth speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast, where the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against a lower court's ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK's Human Rights Act 

Lord Justice Gillen said: "Abortion is a classic instance of the type of highly controversial issue touching on social, moral and religious policies on which there is no consensus either in Europe or, for that matter, in this jurisdiction.

"Such an issue requires Parliament to be allowed a wide margin of judgment."

Northern Ireland's most senior judge, Lord Justice Declan Morgan, invited legal submissions on sending the case to the Supreme Court.

Pro-choice campaigner Sarah Ewart (left), who had to travel to England for an abortion due to fatal foetal abnormality, and Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International, speak to media outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast, where the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against a lower court's ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK's Human Rights Act 

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Northern Ireland news