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Supreme Court hears legal challenge targeting NI's disabled babies

23 October 2017


The case how now reached the UK's highest court 

"End this crusade against disabled babies" 

The Supreme Court will hear a case brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), which claims that the Province's current law with regards to cases of sexual crime or "serious foetal anomaly" is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Human right to abortion?

In June, the Court of Appeals in Belfast overturned a 2015 High Court judgement which stated that unborn children diagnosed with a serious disability or conceived in sexual crime did not deserve the legal protection provided to other children. Three judges found unanimously that Northern Ireland’s laws, which prohibit abortion, are not incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Now, the NIHRC, backed by organisations such as Amnesty International, is challenging the decision in the Supreme Court. 

Human rights groups should protect the vulnerable

Ahead of the hearing, SPUC's Northern Ireland Development Officer, Liam Gibson, called on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, to urgently review the work of the commission. 

"It is the job of the Commission to promote human rights, and in particular the rights of vulnerable groups like the disabled," he said. "Instead, the Commission is waging a legal battle to overturn laws in Northern Ireland which protect unborn children from being aborted simply because they have a disability.

Bypassing democracy

"The Commission claims that Northern Ireland’s laws violate the European Convention on Human Rights even though the European Court has repeatedly stated that there is no right to abortion within the Convention," Mr Gibson continued. "In February of 2016 the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to maintain the Province’s ban on abortion. It rejected legislation to allow the abortion of seriously disabled children by 59 votes to 40. Now the Commission and the British abortion industry are trying to achieve through the courts what they failed to achieve through the democratic process...Since 2013 it has relentlessly pursued its ruthless agenda on this issue in an attempt by stealth to subvert the elected representatives. We’re now calling on Mr Brokenshire to review its workings and take the necessary steps to end its crusade against disabled babies." 

Further betrayal of Northern Ireland's babies

The case starts as Justine Greening, the Equalities Minister, details plans to provide abortions for women from Northern Ireland for free on the English NHS. In a ministerial statement today, she announced that women from Northern Ireland will be able to access a "comparable" abortion service to the rest of the UK when travelling to England for a procedure from the end of the year. As well as making providing abortions for free, a grant scheme will cover travel and accommodation for women on low incomes, and a central telephone booking system through which women will be enabled to arrange an abortions in England is to be created. 

This measure was not debated or voted upon in Parliament. 

News in brief:

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Comments (1)
  • Michael Petek

    24 October 2017, 7:36pm

    Having listened to the arguments this morning, I noticed that, if the appeal succeeds, it will do so on precedents decided at Strasbourg on applications from Poland and Ireland. It is a material fact that the crime against humanity of murder is not being committed in either country, but in the UK, it is.

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