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Northern Ireland court overturns ruling that abortion laws are in breach of human rights law

The court also ruled that the final say on abortion laws should rest with Stormont and the national legislature.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

THE NORTHERN IRELAND Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling which found that the country’s abortion laws were in breach of European human rights law.

The court also ruled that the final say on abortion laws should rest with Stormont and the national legislature.

In 2015, the High Court ruled that Northern Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by its failure to allow for abortion in cases of rape or fatal foetal abnormality.

Northern Ireland has strict laws around abortion. It is only permitted in the country if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is permanent of serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Today, a three judge panel overturned allowed an appeal to overturn the High Court’s decision.

It ruled that it was not up to the courts or local government to decide on abortion, but rather the national government.

The ruling was met with differing reactions from either side of the abortion debate.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International Ireland described the decision as  “absurd” and “an insult to women and girls”.

“Today’s absurd ruling is an insult to women and girls and to everyone across the country who cares about justice,” said executive director with the organisation Colm O’Gorman.

The judges had a chance to put right centuries of human rights abuse but with a flick of the pen they’ve just let down another generation of women and girls in Northern Ireland.

On other side of the divide, anti-abortion group Precious Life welcomed the decision.

In a statement carried by BBC, the group’s director Bernadette Smyth said the decision was “a victory for the most vulnerable in society – our unborn children”.

“Without the right to life, all other right are meaningless. Our elected representatives in Northern Ireland must continue to upheld the right to life of unborn children in law, policy and practice,” she said.

BBC reports that the court also decided today to allow legal submissions for the case to go to the Supreme Court.

Read: 25 legal abortions were carried out in Ireland in 2016

Read: Citizens’ Assembly publishes additional recommendations on the Eighth Amendment

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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