Court of appeal abortion ruling deemed huge setback for women in Northern Ireland

Posted by
Elle Griffiths
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The Belfast Court of Appeal has ruled not to uphold a high court judgement that abortion legislation is incompatible with human rights law, disappointing campaigners.

The appeal was brought by the attorney general following the 2015 judgement, but today it was ruled that abortion law should be decided by Stormont - who are very unlikely to vote to remove the ban.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, despite the country being part of the UK, in virtually all circumstances. It can carry a penalty of up to life imprisonment. 

The judgement recommended the law be altered to allow abortion in cases of rape and fetal abnormality. 

Talking about the developments, a spokesperson for the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign told Stylist: “While we do not believe access to abortion should be limited to women who met a certain set of circumstances, we were heartened that the High Court ruling had acknowledged human rights breaches were taking place in Northern Ireland.”

“Sadly, it seems like a case of one step forward, two steps back. We will nonetheless continue to campaign for free, safe and legal abortions for women in Northern Ireland regardless of circumstance.”

It has been a busy week for Northern Ireland abortion campaigners with the DUP’s stance on the issue threatening to incite a Tory rebellion in the House of Commons on a vote on the Queen’s Speech. 

The recent attention on the DUP and their regressive views on social issues, such as abortion, has brought to light the dire state of reproductive rights in the province. 

Many on the British mainland were previously unaware that the 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland and campaigners are hoping to capitalise on this renewed focus.

Labour MP Stella Creasy, who co-ordinated the amendment to the Queen’s Speech intended to allow terminations on the NHS for Northern Irish women, has garnered support from Tory rebels. 

MPs were set to vote on the amendment this afternoon until Phillip Hammond made the surprise announcement that NHS abortions will be available to women travelling from Northern Ireland. This is widely believed to be an attempt to stave off an embarrassment for the Tories and their new anti-choice allies, the DUP.

Images; Rex Features/Getty