Northern Ireland awaits landmark abortion ruling

Northern Ireland awaits landmark abortion ruling

Those responsible for ensuring the compatibility of Northern Ireland law with the Convention rights will no doubt recognise and take account of these conclusions, at as early a time as possible, by considering whether and how to amend the law, in the light of the ongoing suffering being caused by it'.

The "clear opinion" expressed by the supreme court - that Northern Ireland's prohibition on abortion except in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest is in breach of the European convention on human rights - will not immediately lead to change.

The UK's highest court is set to rule on a challenge over the legality of Northern Ireland's strict abortion law.

Since last month's referendum in the Republic, Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom and Ireland where termination is restricted to cases where there is a threat to a woman's life or serious risk to her physical or mental health.

"No formal declaration has been made by the court and the appeal has been dismissed, but the analysis and comments from the court on the issue of incompatibility will be clearly heard by the House of Commons and politicians in Northern Ireland".

But Ms Bradley insisted her focus is on restoring the devolved assembly at Stormont, amid intense cross-party calls to liberalise Northern Ireland's abortion laws following the landslide pro-choice referendum victory in Ireland last month.

At some point in the future, these past two weeks may come to be seen as a tipping point, the moment when the drive to ease the draconian restrictions on abortion in Northern Ireland became an unstoppable force.

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The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission says the law should be changed in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.

This surely means the UK Government must now act to change the law. Labour MP Stella Creasy said the referendum to legalise abortion in the Irish Republic was an historic moment that should usher in change in Northern Ireland.

Jim Wells claimed the numbers murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps were comparable to the number of terminations since abortion laws were relaxed in England, Scotland and Wales.

This view was shared by four of the seven judges.

"I welcome the fact that MPs are talking about decriminalising this issue because women have been criminalised here for far too long", said Mrs O'Neill.

The current law has "a significant chilling effect" on women seeking abortions and medical professionals who may wish to help them, he added. "We hope they take it". Amnesty is calling for the repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which would decriminalise abortion and enable a Human Right compliant healthcare framework to be put in place.

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