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High Court in Belfast rules Northern Ireland abortion law breaches human rights

Legislation decriminalising abortion may be introduced this month if the Stormont executive doesn’t resume.

Sarah Ewart launched a judicial review into NI's abortion laws.
Sarah Ewart launched a judicial review into NI's abortion laws.
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Images

NORTHERN IRELAND’S STRICT abortion law breaches the UK’s human rights commitments, the High Court in Belfast has ruled.

Sarah Ewart, 29, was refused a termination in 2013.

Instead, she travelled to a London clinic to end her pregnancy after doctors said her unborn child would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

Ewart had sought a judicial review of the compatibility of current abortion legislation in Northern Ireland with human rights laws.

Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan said: “In my view her personal testimony is compelling.”

In a statement released by her solicitors, Ewart said: “Today’s ruling is a turning point for women in their campaign against the outdated laws prohibiting against abortion in Northern Ireland. It should never have had to come to this.

Today’s ruling is a vindication of all those women who have fought tirelessly to ensure that we never again have to go through what I did in 2013.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin said: “This is a hugely significant ruling in our clients’ campaign against the discriminatory and archaic laws that have denied the rights of many. We now look forward to an early hearing on the question of relief, so that this matter can be finalised once and for all.”

In July, the House of Commons passed a vote which ruled that abortion may be decriminalised in the North if the collapsed Stormont executive does not resume before 21 October.

While the law on abortion was relaxed across the UK in 1967, it remains criminally prohibited in the North. 

Another vote also ruled that same-sex marriage will also be legalised if the executive is not restored by the same date.

Church leaders this week called for political parties to restore the executive to prevent the introduction of abortion legislation this month. 

With reporting from the Press Association

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Sean Murray

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