Reaction to Supreme Court abortion ruling

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"The highest court in the land has ruled that the United Kingdom is in breach of its own human rights obligations to women in Northern Ireland who are governed by this draconian law", said Teggart.

Campaigners have lost a Supreme Court appeal challenging Northern Ireland's strict abortion law - despite a majority of justices declaring it is "incompatible" with human legislation.

Belfast's High Court made a declaration in December 2015 that the law was incompatible with Article 8 of the ECHR - the right to respect for private and family life - because of the absence of exceptions to the general prohibition on abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and pregnancies resulting from sexual offences.

But a majority of the judges also found that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had no legal standing to bring its challenge against the laws as they dismissed it on a technicality.

Northern Ireland's abortion laws prohibit abortion in all circumstances, except if the pregnancy puts the mother's life at risk or if it poses a risk of "serious and permanent damage" to her physical or mental health.

"The view from the Supreme Court is clear - politicians can no longer duck our responsibilities to properly analyse and legislate on hard issues".

With the cabinet reaching either a breaking point or a decision on a Brexit backstop, - it's not clear yet which- the Northern Ireland border is likely to take priority just now over Northern Ireland abortion in the fevered brains of ministers.

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Laurence Wilkinson, legal counsel for ADF International, a group that advocates the right to live according to religious belief, said it welcomes the dismissal of the case, asserting that "at least 100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today" because of the decision not to liberalize laws in 1967, when Wales, England and Scotland eased restrictions.

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

But the momentum for change will gather strength from the complicated judgment, which comes two days after forceful arguments for reform were presented in a House of Commons emergency debate, and less than two weeks after the Irish Republic voted by a landslide to repeal its constitutional protection of the unborn.

"All eyes are now on the UK Government". The Northern Ireland assembly has not sat for 17 months. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

But the Department of Justice at Stormont and Northern Ireland's attorney general challenged the judgment and won the appeal.

Responding for the Government, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said Westminster should not seek to impose abortion.


"You are actually going to have embedded technology going straight into your retina."