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NI Attorney General to appeal against abortion ruling

28 January 2016


John Larkin QC will oppose Mr Justice Horner's decision in the Court of Appeal

Northern Ireland's Attorney General has confirmed he is appealing against last month's High Court ruling that current abortion law is 'incompatible with human rights.'

John Larkin QC had already described Justice Mark Horner’s judgement in December as “profoundly disappointing”.

The 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland where the procedure remains presumptively illegal. The Province's law does, however, provide a defence for doctors who preform an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Pro-abortion campaigning

Over 200,000 abortions are performed every year in England, Wales and Scotland. Just over 800 women from Northern Ireland travel to Britain each year for abortions but the number has significantly reduced in the last 15 years.

The Republic of Ireland controversially legalised abortion under certain circumstances in 2013. Although the Irish government claims that abortion is only allowed under strict circumstances, pro-life observers have warned Irish abortion law now contains even more loopholes than the current law in the UK – meaning that it could easily lead to abortion-on-demand.

The Belfast High Court’s judgement in December was widely seen as the result of decades of pro-abortion campaigning by international organisations like Amnesty International.

Grave judicial bias

In that ruling the judge, Mr Justice Mark Horner told the Belfast High Court: "In the circumstances, given this issue is unlikely to be grasped by the legislature in the foreseeable future, and the entitlement of citizens of Northern Ireland to have their Convention rights protected by the courts, I conclude that the Article Eight rights of women in Northern Ireland who are pregnant with fatal foetal abnormalities or who are pregnant as a result of sexual crime are breached by the impugned provisions."

The Attorney General’s decision to appeal this ruling is a reflection of the fact that the judge’s reasoning has been widely criticised, leading to accusations of grave judicial bias.

Ruling "confused" and "puzzling"

Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland development officer, commented:

"We welcome the attorney-general's appeal against Mr Justice Horner's ruling that Northern Ireland's abortion laws are incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. As a notice party to the case, SPUC hopes to demonstrate to the Court of Appeal that the judge's ruling was confused. His claim that the law north of the border is inadequate because it is not ratified by a referendum is puzzling.

"His comments on the status of the unborn child in the law of Northern Ireland were also dubious. We will show the Court that international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, demands that States provide 'appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth'."

Yesterday, the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice announced he would also seek to appeal specific sections of the judgement. He told the press that he was concern that the ruling could lead to abortion on demand.

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