Northern Ireland: abortion law ruled incompatible with human rights

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Re Judicial Review [2015] NIQB 96.  

“Court declares abortion law in Northern Ireland breaches European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide exceptions to ban.” So runs the title of the official summary of this landmark ruling, requested by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and delivered November 30, 2015.

“Mr Justice Horner, sitting . . . in the High Court in Belfast, held that the abortion legislation in Northern Ireland breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide an exception to the prohibition on abortion in cases of: a fatal foetal abnormality (at any time during the pregnancy) or where the pregnancy is the result of sexual crime (up to the date when the foetus is capable of existing independently of the mother).   He asked the parties to make further submissions on whether the legislation could be read in a Convention compliant way or that prosecution would be an abuse and, in the event that it is not possible to achieve these outcomes, he said it will be appropriate and proper for the court to make a declaration to the effect that the legislation is incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998.” (Official Summary continues online.)

This judgment also has implications for other Commonwealth countries that still retain the English 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which bans all abortions except when the mother is in danger.

Decision of November 30, 2015Official summary.

News media coverage:   “Judge leaves Northern Ireland’s abortion laws to lawmakers”: New York Times.

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