Skip to content

Northern Ireland abortion law breaches human rights, court rules

Printer-friendly version
The High Court in Belfast has declared that abortion law in Northern Ireland is incompatible with human rights.
Mr Justice Horner ruled that by not allowing for exceptions in cases where the child has a ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ (FFA), or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, the current law breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which upholds the right to ‘respect for private life’. 
Under Northern Ireland’s existing legal framework, abortion is only permitted where the mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy. 
But, earlier this year, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission applied for a Judicial Review of the legislation. 
In his ruling on the case, the judge said that it was “illegitimate and disproportionate” to ban abortion of unborn children with a ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, as they are “incapable of existence independent of the mother’s womb”
He also said that not allowing a victim of rape or incest to abort “completely ignores the personal circumstances of the victim”.  

‘Duty to protect’

Pro-life organisations have criticised the ruling and vowed to fight on. Bernadette Smyth, the director of Precious Life, said in a statement:
“We are deeply saddened that [Mr Justice Horner] did not recognise the right to life which is shared by all unborn children in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“The Right to Life is granted neither by judges nor politicians, but it is their duty to protect it. We cannot and will not accept a ruling that is so morally wrong in denying the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable human beings in society.
“Precious Life will make a further submission in this case and will not give up in our efforts to ensure every unborn child is protected in Northern Ireland.”

‘Dangerously flawed’

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children’s (SPUC) Liam Gibson branded the ruling “dangerously flawed” and called on the Attorney General of Northern Ireland to work with pro-life groups to appeal the judgment. 
In a statement, Mr Gibson, the Northern Ireland development officer for SPUC, said:
“The judge misrepresented the protection of children before birth in case law and statute law in Northern Ireland. He also confused the separate legal issues of viability and the capacity to be born alive.”

Unborn children ‘most persecuted group in world history’

Mr Gibson went on to praise the collaboration of church groups in their fight against abortion. 
“The greatest strength of SPUC's campaign in Northern Ireland over the past several decades has been the united opposition to abortion by the overwhelming majority of the community by Catholics and Protestants alike. May that unity, supported by prayer, grow ever stronger as we work to restore the protection of the law for unborn children, the most persecuted group of human beings in world history”. 
Both SPUC and Precious Life intervened in the case. 

‘Further liberalisation’

Andrea Williams, Christian Concern’s chief executive, said:
“If permitted, these changes would open the door to further liberalisation of abortion law in Northern Ireland. We stand with those in Northern Ireland who continue to fight for the protection of life from the moment of conception.”

Related News:
High Court challenge to DPP over failure to prosecute 'gender-abortion' doctors
Thousands having multiple abortions in UK

Related Coverage:
It's a truly tragic day for Northern Ireland's unborn children and their mothers (John Smeaton, SPUC director)
"The law is the same today as it was yesterday" (Precious Life)


Subscribe to our emails