Supreme court dismisses attempt to overturn Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws

Theresa May has been urged to support liberalisation of Northern Ireland's laws

Theresa May has been urged to support liberalisation of Northern Ireland's laws

Human-rights campaigners lost their case over the legality of Northern Ireland's abortion law on a technicality.

Les Allamby, chief commissioner at the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, said: "If the court rules that there is a violation of human rights, then that becomes a very serious issue for the United Kingdom government".

But a majority of judges said the existing law was incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

As a result, the justices said the Supreme Court "has no jurisdiction" in the proceedings to make a declaration of incompatibility or to strike down law.

The commission a year ago argued that the current law criminalises "exceptionally vulnerable" women and girls and subjects them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

Therefore, the court can not deliver a ruling on the issue.

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

Fiona Bruce said she believed the unborn child "has an equal place to be considered" before noting that those leading the debate want to further liberalise Great Britain's already highly permissive abortion laws.

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Decriminalizing abortion in Northern Ireland may come down to a vote Wednesday in London's House of Commons at Westminster.

Currently, women can only access an abortion in Northern Ireland if their life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to physical or mental health.

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"Nine-point-two million people have had their lives terminated through abortion in Britain since 1967", he said.

Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who had called for the debate, contended she respected the right of Northern Ireland's assembly to address abortion.

"Abortion has been a devolved matter in Northern Ireland since it was created in 1921, and it would not be appropriate for Westminster to seek to impose its will, or to be the arbiter of an issue that has always been devolved to the people of Northern Ireland".

The Government has resisted calls to step in and legislate amid the ongoing powersharing impasse in Northern Ireland, insisting that any decision on abortion in the region has to be taken by locally elected politicians at Stormont.

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