Northern Ireland High Court to decide whether to allow abortion for victims of rape and incest

Abortion is completely illegal in Northern Ireland unless a women's life is in danger.

Siobhan Fenton
Monday 15 June 2015 16:07
Comments
The proposal marks a significant moment for abortion law reform in the region, which is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply
The proposal marks a significant moment for abortion law reform in the region, which is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply

A High Court case has begun today in Belfast to determine whether abortion laws in the region should be reformed.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has lodged a legal challenge calling for a review of current legislation as to whether women should have access to terminations in the event of rape, incest or if the foetus suffers such a severe malformation that it cannot survive outside the womb.

Unlike the rest of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland. Abortion is illegal in the region unless a woman’s life is in danger. Last week new figures estimated that 828 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England to access terminations.

Belfast High Court (pictured) opened a judicial review of the case today

The High Court judicial review will take submissions over the coming days from both sides of the debate through pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners.

Chief Commissioner for NIHRC, Les Allamby, explained to The Independent why the organisation decided to bring the case: “It is in everyone’s interest that the law is clarified in this area. It is a matter of significant public interest to ensure that the rights of vulnerable women and girls in these situations are protected.”

However, Bernadette Smyth, campaigner for the anti-abortion group Precious Life criticised the judge’s decision to grant the judicial review. She said: “I’m greatly concerned that a so-called human rights organisation wants to take a case that will take the rights of unborn children, who have a fundamental right to be born.”

Grainne Teggart, lobbyist and campaigner for Amnesty International Northern Ireland, said: “Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion date back to the 19th Century and carry the harshest criminal penalties in Europe and fail to protect women who have been raped, are victims of incest or whose pregnancies have been given a fatal foetal diagnosis. By not legislating for change, the Northern Ireland Assembly fails women with every passing day.”

The hearing is expected to last until Wednesday.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in