There is momentum now for freedom of choice to be made real, not just in Northern Ireland, but for all women in the UK
In a long-awaited and timely judgment, the UK supreme court has found Northern Ireland’s abortion restrictions – banning termination even in cases of rape, incest and foetal abnormality – in breach of Article 8 (the right to a private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In his judgment Lord Mance is clear that the present law in Northern Ireland, “treats the pregnant woman as a vehicle who must be expected to carry a foetus to birth, whatever the other circumstances, and whatever her wishes”. Procedural issues (relating to whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has standing to bring the case) have frustratingly left the court unable to declare incompatibility officially. But it has made it wonderfully clear that the law must change, calling for urgent “radical reconsideration” of the current framework and warning that if a victim of the existing law brought proceedings they would likely succeed.
Following the Irish referendum, Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and Ireland – and most of Europe – where terminations are outlawed apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.
How does access to abortion vary across the UK?