Human-rights activists in Northern Ireland are turning up the heat on the United Kingdom, pressuring London to scrap the territory’s abortion ban after the country’s Supreme Court concurred that the law needs reform.
Northern Ireland was not included in the the Irish republic’s vote last month to overhaul its similarly strict abortion ban. The rest of Ireland will now allow abortion up to twelve weeks of pregnancy, but Northern Ireland still bans it except in cases where the mother’s life or physical or mental health are in danger.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on Thursday lost a Supreme Court appeal to overturn the ban,when the Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to consider the case because no victim was identified. But the majority in that decision agreed that Northern Ireland’s rigid law does not follow Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, and incest.
“The present law clearly needs radical reconsideration,” said the deputy president of the Supreme Court, Lord Jonathan Hugh Mance.
NIHRC complained to the court in October that the Northern Irish ban punishes “exceptionally vulnerable” women and girls with “inhuman and degrading” treatment.
“The judges made absolutely clear that if a woman [in such a case] was brought forward they would find that our laws are incompatible with human rights,” NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby said. “The law now needs to change to stop women and girls from further anxiety and suffering.”
“There’s a moral obligation for [Prime Minister] Theresa May to bring forward legislation to ensure that women in Northern Ireland have access to their rights,” said Breedagh Hughes, the Northern Ireland director of the Royal College of Midwives.
More than 160 lawmakers have written to May pressuring her to schedule a referendum on changing the abortion law in Northern Ireland.