Britain's top court says can not rule on Northern Ireland abortion law

Cheryl Sanders
June 10, 2018

As it now stands, abortion is only legal in Northern Ireland if the life of the woman is endangered. It said the court's dismissal was on a technicality and its judgment made clear that the status quo was untenable when it came to cases of fatal fetal abnormality and rape. Nevertheless, she argued repeal would still allow Northern Irish legislators to fix limitations on abortion.

Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at the DUP after it insisted Westminster should not meddle with Northern Ireland's strict abortion regime. Others dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale", the dystopian novel and television show in which women are subjugated in a totalitarian state.

MsEwart, who has campaigned for change alongside Amnesty International since her abortion, said Northern Ireland's politicians should put their "religious beliefs behind them and do their job". But though some British lawmakers have floated the idea of changing the abortion law directly from London, Prime Minister Theresa May is unlikely to push for such a change.

Northern Ireland hasn't had a government since a power-sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein collapsed in January 2017 over the DUP leadership's role in a costly renewable energy initiative. May needs the party's 10 lawmakers in parliament to keep her government in office.

"In the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, it becomes a human rights issue, not simply a matter of policy that's devolved to Northern Ireland". No 10 says it should be dealt with by Stormont once devolution is restored. In 2016, lawmakers there, led by the DUP, voted to maintain the antiabortion policy.

"We recognize there are strongly-held views on all sides of the debate in Northern Ireland and that's why our focus is on restoring that democratically accountable, devolved government", Downing Street said after the meeting. She stressed the need for Northern Ireland's Stormont Assembly to be restored as it is now in what's called a devolved status.

The Supreme Court said it had no jurisdiction to consider the challenge brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) because the proceedings did not involve an identified victim.

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.

Despite the decision to uphold the law, pro-choice activists said they welcomed the judges' ruling.

"I am proud of that pro-life position, I am proud of the fact that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of both women and of the unborn child and we will maintain that position".

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