UK Supreme Court Rejects Legal Challenge to Northern Ireland Abortion Laws

Today's debate has already attracted the support of some cabinet ministers

Today's debate has already attracted the support of some cabinet ministers

The UK Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by human rights campaigners hoping to decriminalise Northern Ireland's strict abortion law.

The Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Lord Jonathan Hugh Mance, said that "the present law clearly needs radical reconsideration".

In the wake of the Irish referendum last month, which overturned a prohibition on abortion that had been part of the constitution since the 1980s, attention has turned north of the border.

Ms Creasy wants the Offences against the Persons Act 1861 to be repealed, saying this would remove a block to abortion law reform in Northern Ireland.

Days after the vote, abortion rights activists rallied in the Northern Irish capital of Belfast. Others dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale", the dystopian novel and television show in which women are subjugated in a totalitarian state.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. The prime minister must commit to reforming abortion law immediately or be complicit in the harm and inequality caused by the existing law.

But that decision was overturned in June previous year by three of Northern Ireland's most senior judges. No 10 says it should be dealt with by Stormont once devolution is restored.

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The maximum penalty for breaking the law in Northern Ireland is life in prison.

The human rights group did not have the legal standing to make the appeal, the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

While some judges took the view that the legal protections for the unborn in cases of rape, incest and severely life-limiting conditions are incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, they also acknowledged the court had no basis for making that ruling.

An emergency debate on the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland was held in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

"The commission had argued the law criminalizes vulnerable women and girls and subjects them to inhumane and degrading treatment in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights", NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

Then Stella Creasy MP led an impassioned debate in the House of Commons on removing abortion from criminal law across the United Kingdom, most significantly impacting upon Northern Ireland. Sarah Ewart said she meant to take a case to Belfast's High Court to seek the declaration of incompatibility the commission was unable to obtain.

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