Government - Court Bashes Northern Ireland's Abortion Ban
Northern Ireland's strict rules restricting abortions are a breach of the UK's human rights commitments, according to a key ruling from the High Court in Belfast.
This came in the case brought by 29-year old Belfast woman Sarah Ewart, who challenged the law after she was denied a termination in 2013 even though a scan showing the fetus she was carrying would not survive. Instead, she travelled to London for the necessary medical procedure and started what would become a six-year legal fight when she got home.
High Court Justice Siobhan Keegan agreed Ms. Ewart and all women in the north should not have to go through that.
"She has been affected by the current law in that she has had to travel to seek an abortion in desperate circumstances. In addition, she runs the risk of being directly affected again by the current legal impositions given that she is at risk of a baby having a fatal fetal abnormality," said Keegan. "She has had to modify her behaviour in that she could not have medical treatment in Northern Ireland due to the risk of criminal prosecution."
Ewart hailed the ruling as "a turning point for women" in their campaign against the "outdated laws" in the six counties.
"Too many women in Northern Ireland have been put through unnecessary pain by our abortion law," she said. "It is a massive emotional relief. This has not been an easy journey. It is a massive victory. It has been a massive stress emotionally on the family but six years later, let's enjoy today."
The ruling doesn't instantly decriminalize abortion: Legislation passed in Parliament will decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland, unless the Stormont assembly was restored by 21 October.