Abortion ruling challenged by North’s attorney general

High Court said laws on terminations are incompatible with human rights legislation

Northern Ireland's attorney general has lodged an appeal against a Northern Ireland High Court ruling that declared the region's strict abortion laws were incompatible with human rights legislation.

John Larkin is to challenge Mr Justice Mark Horner's judgment in the Court of Appeal.

The judge’s landmark ruling last year had potentially paved the way for the relaxation of the current prohibition on women accessing terminations in cases of rape, incest or where there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

The judge’s declaration of incompatibility did not immediately lift the current ban but had placed an onus on the Stormont Assembly to legislate on the issue.

The judge had ruled the failure to provide exceptions to the law in certain limited circumstances breached a woman’s right to privacy.

In cases of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA), the judge said that the mother’s inability to access an abortion was a “gross interference with her personal autonomy”.

Where a sexual crime has occurred, the judge said the restrictions placed a disproportionate burden on victims.

Abortion Act

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, where abortions are illegal except where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.

Anyone who performs an illegal termination could be jailed for life.

Mr Justice Horner made the ruling in a case taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission against Stormont's Department of Justice.

The attorney general’s office confirmed an appeal had been lodged.

Amnesty International pledged to resist any attempt to overturn the judge's ruling.

Amnesty's programme director in Northern Ireland, Patrick Corrigan, said: "The High Court made a very clear ruling that laws governing abortion in Northern Ireland breach the human rights of women and girls.

“That important ruling stands and we stand ready to resist any attempt to overturn it.

“The Assembly must bring Northern Ireland’s abortion laws into the21st-century and in to line with international law as a matter of urgency.”

PA

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