Friday, October 04, 2019

Northern Ireland's Abortion Restrictions Violate European Human Rights Convention

Yesterday, the High Court in Northern Ireland held that Northern Ireland's abortion law is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights insofar as it bars abortions in cases of fatal fetal abnormality. As explained in a Summary of Judgment issued by the court:
In June 2018, the UK Supreme Court ... dismissed an appeal by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission... over the legality of the abortion laws in Northern Ireland. A termination is only permitted if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.... The majority of the UKSC held that the abortion law in Northern Ireland was incompatible with Article 8 ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights] in cases of FFA, rape and incest in that it denied women in these situations a lawful termination of their pregnancies for those who wish for it but dismissed the appeal, however, on the procedural issue that the NIHRC did not have the standing to bring the appeal....
Mrs Justice Keegan said she intended to follow the ruling of the UKSC that the law in Northern Ireland is incompatible with human rights in cases of FFA. She declined to follow a course which involved her effectively reopening the arguments already made and decided in relation to Article 8 incompatibility by the UKSC. The judge commented that the decision on substantive compatibility issues was intended by the UKSC to have persuasive force and that any matters of contention in respect of that decision should be corrected by the UKSC itself or by the European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”).
A full text of the decision is not yet posted online. The Guardian reports on the decision.