Amnesty International and Sarah Ewart join court challenge on Northern Ireland abortion law

‘Whether through the Courts or the Assembly we are determined to bring Northern Ireland’s abortion laws into the 21st Century’ – Grainne Teggart

Amnesty International NI and local woman Sarah Ewart have joined a High Court Judicial Review which seeks to challenge laws governing abortion in Northern Ireland in cases of serious malformation of the foetus and sexual crime. 

Sarah Ewart, whose first pregnancy was given a fatal foetal diagnosis, had to travel to England to terminate her pregnancy as Northern Ireland's laws did not permit her to receive medical treatment within the region.

The Judicial Review, taken by Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, will be heard in Belfast’s High Court on Monday 15 June 2015 and run until Wednesday 17 June 2015.

Grainne Teggart, Campaign Manager for Amnesty's 'My Body My Rights' campaign, said;

“Northern Ireland's laws on abortion date back to the 19th century, carry the harshest criminal penalties in Europe and fail to protect women who have been raped, are victims of incest or whose pregnancies have been given a fatal foetal diagnosis.

“By not legislating for change, the Northern Ireland Assembly fails women with every passing day. Up to 2,000 women leave Northern Ireland every year to access termination of pregnancy services. That reality is a damning indictment of the Executive’s failure to prioritise women’s healthcare.

“Change is long overdue and change is coming. Whether through the courts or the Assembly, Northern Ireland's abortion laws must be brought into the 21st century.” 

Sarah Ewart, who has been calling for change since 2013, said:

“I am an ordinary woman who suffered a very personal family tragedy, which the law in Northern Ireland turned into a living nightmare.

“My baby was given a diagnosis of anencephaly, a fatal abnormality where the brain does not develop and there is no skull. I was told that my baby was likely to die before being born or shortly afterwards.

“All I kept thinking was, ‘Our baby has no brain, she cannot live’. I simply could not face it but the law in Northern Ireland meant I had no option but to go to England and take myself away from the care of the doctors and midwife who knew me. I was 23 years old and totally devastated.

“I, and many women like me, have been failed by our politicians after they left me with no option but to go to England for medical care. Now, by their refusal to change the law, they leave me with no option but to go to the courts on my and other women's behalf.”

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