Northern Ireland abortion law: Executive should pursue legislation not litigation

Amnesty International has criticised the Northern Ireland Department of Justice for spending more than £100,000 defending Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law against legal action taken by the region’s Human Rights Commission.

In November 2015 the Belfast High Court found against the Department, deciding that current law is incompatible with human rights standards. The Department of Justice and Attorney General are appealing the finding.

The Department has admitted it has spent £102,217 on legal fees for the High Court and Court of Appeal challenges as well as court costs, in response to a question from Green Party MLA Clare Bailey.

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said:

“The existing abortion laws in Northern Ireland date back to 1861 – before the invention of the lightbulb - and are some of the most restrictive and punitive to be found anywhere in Europe. They ride roughshod over the rights of women and girls, and are in desperate need of reform.

“Rather than pursuing endless, costly litigation through the courts in a futile attempt to defend bad law, the Northern Ireland Executive should be pursuing legislation to bring the region into line with international human rights standards. Every day that it fails to do so is a further breach of the rights of women in the region.”

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