High Court rules NI’s abortion law breaches human rights

  • Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Professional News
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Northern Ireland’s abortion law breaches the UK’s human rights commitments, the High Court in Belfast has ruled.

As reported by BBC News and other media outlets on Thursday (3 October 2019), Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan ruled in favour of Sarah Ewart who has led a campaign to change Northern Ireland’s abortion laws after she was refused a termination.

In 2013, Mrs Ewart was told she could not have a legal abortion, despite the presence of foetal malformations not conducive with survival. She travelled to England for a termination.

In June 2018, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission lost a legal challenge to Termination of Pregnancy laws. Despite the loss, a majority of the Supreme Court judges agreed that Northern Ireland's existing legislation was incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

However, the judges dismissed the commission's case, ruling that the organisation did not have the legal standing to bring such a challenge. They advised that the case would have had more merit had it been brought by a woman pregnant as a result of sexual crime or carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality. Mrs Ewart agreed to lead that challenge.

On Thursday, Mrs Justice Keegan said she ruled in Mrs Ewart's favour as it was not right to ask another woman to relive the trauma that she had already experienced.

Mrs Ewart said the ruling was "a turning point for women" in their campaign against "outdated laws".

"Today's ruling is a vindication of all those women who have fought tirelessly to ensure that we never again have to go through what I did in 2013." Mrs Ewart said.

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