Campaigners Lose Appeal Over Northern Ireland Abortion Law Challenge

Today's debate has already attracted the support of some cabinet ministers

Today's debate has already attracted the support of some cabinet ministers

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had argued that the law should be changed to allow abortions in cases where pregnancies were as a result of rape or incest, or in cases where the fetus had a fatal abnormality.

The NIHRC claims the law's effect on women is incompatible with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

She added, "That is why the government, like its predecessors, believes that the best forum to debate and resolve these and many other matters is a locally elected Northern Ireland assembly, so the government's priority remains to urgently re-establish strong, inclusive, devolved government at the earliest opportunity".

At the ruling today, a QC representing the commission argued that human rights were being breached, with those affected being forced to go through "physical and mental torture".

The House of Commons will discuss the repeal of elements of an 1861 law that makes abortion illegal, but from which England, Wales and Scotland have always been exempt.

On Thursday, Deputy Supreme Court president Lord Mance said the present law "clearly needs radical consideration".

Fiona Bruce, Maria Caulfield and Emma Little-Pengelly all challenged supporters of abortion during a three-hour House of Commons debate.

In 2017 the Court of Appeal ruled that even if that was the case, the law falls under powers devolved to Stormont and can not be changed in Westminster.

"I would like to pay tribute to the women who intervened in this case and gave their personal testimonies on the appalling impact of abortion law in Northern Ireland".

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.

The prime minister privately told Conservative MPs that she does not support action to reform Northern Ireland's laws.

Submissions were also made at the Supreme Court by a number of bodies, including seven of the UK's leading reproductive rights organisations, Humanists UK, Bishops of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in Northern Ireland, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Amnesty International.

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.

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

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