UK top court says can't enforce abortion law change in Northern Ireland

UK top court says can't enforce abortion law change in Northern Ireland

Amnesty International and women who have been directly impacted by the abortion law intervened in the case, providing evidence that the near total abortion ban is a violation of women's rights.

Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights in Geneva, which made a submission in the case, said the Supreme Court judgment was "an indictment" of Northern Ireland's restrictive law. [It] makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue.

There have been calls for the UK Parliament to legislate for abortion reform in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning devolved government.

Theresa May was today urged to defy her DUP backers and to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland. She would like parliament to repeal parts of the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, thereby decriminalizing abortion in Northern Ireland. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

Anyone who unlawfully carries out an abortion could be jailed for life.

"This feels like a huge relief".

It asked the Supreme Court to rule that a prohibition on abortions where a pregnancy arises from rape or incest, or "involves a serious foetal abnormality", is unlawful.

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By a majority decision, the justices said that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), which brought the appeal, did not have the power to "institute abstract proceedings of this nature".

However, a lawmaker from the the main Unionist party, which opposes liberalizing abortion law and also props up the minority British government in London, said he was "delighted with the decision".

However, the fact that the Supreme Court dismissed the case because of doubts about the Human Rights Commission's right to bring it means the judges' views on the anti-abortion laws do not have legal force, which is reassuring for abortion foes. If there's any testament that we need to get rid of this inhumane abortion ban, it's that. As such, the court does not have jurisdiction to make a declaration of incompatibility in this case. We will not accept being forced on planes to access healthcare.

Fellow Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt went further, saying MPs had sent a message to Northern Ireland's politicians that if they do not act on the issue, "we will".

The Northern Ireland assembly has not sat for 17 months.

Contesting the appeal, the Stormont Executive's senior legal adviser, Attorney General John Larkin QC, said Northern Ireland's criminal law on abortion is a matter for the "democratic judgment" of the legislature.

Lord Manse stated: "the present law clearly needs radical reconsideration".

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