Britain's top court says can not rule on Northern Ireland abortion law

Don’t ask Northern Irish women to beg for their human rights with an abortion referendum

Five of the seven justices in the high court concluded that Northern Ireland's abortion law violated European conventions in not allowing abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities.

Although the supreme court said it had no jurisdiction to consider the latest legal challenge because there was no actual or potential victim of an unlawful act involved in the case, pro-choice campaigners welcomed the call by a majority of its judges for "radical reconsideration" of Northern Ireland's current abortion regime, and said the case for action was incontrovertible.

"While the case's dismissal means the government is not obliged to change the law, the seven judges have given a strong nod that reform is needed", Marie-Louise Connolly writes. The legislation subjects women to "inhuman and degrading" treatment and is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, the NIHRC argued.

As a result, the judges did not make a formal declaration of incompatibility, which would normally lead to a change in the law. The Victorian law governing abortion in Northern Ireland, the 1861 Offenses Against the Persons Act, is one of the most restrictive in Europe.

She said May has an obligation to make sure the United Kingdom government is "now longer acting unlawfully by breaching the human rights of women across Northern Ireland".

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is also saying that Westminster can not decide to reform Northern Ireland's abortion laws.


"This is hugely significant and makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue".

"All eyes are now on the UK Government".

Rebecca Schiller, Chief Executive of Birthrights, the UK's only organisation human rights during pregnancy and childbirth said: "These last weeks have made it clear that we can no longer ignore the continued suffering and violation of Northern Irish women's human rights".

The ruling on a technicality will come as a relief for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who previously said that the province should decide its own abortion policy. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

Mr Corbyn said: "I would say very politely to Arlene Foster, you were elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, maybe you should play your part in ensuring that Assembly functions and we get a devolved administration working in Northern Ireland".

The British leader relies on allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, a socially-conservative group whose opposition to abortion is largely responsible for the region's tough laws. MPs said women are risking their lives by taking abortion pills online or having back-street procedures because they do not have legal rights of termination.

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