Northern Ireland: Amnesty response to Justice Minister’s appeal of High Court ruling on abortion
Amnesty International has reiterated its commitment to resist any attempt to overturn the decision of the Belfast High Court that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws breach the human rights of women and girls.
It was announced today that Northern Ireland’s Minister of Justice, David Ford MLA, has lodged an appeal to the Court’s decision. The region’s Attorney General has already lodged an appeal to the judgment.
Amnesty International intervened in the original High Court case, which was taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
“It is clear that Northern Ireland's legal framework on abortion is in breach of international human rights standards. Accordingly, Amnesty International will resist any attempt to overturn the High Court decision.
“We note that the Minister remains committed to limited reform to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland, and that his appeal is based on the need for ‘clarity’ on some aspects of the High Court’s judgment. What is very clear is that the legislation in force in Northern Ireland rides roughshod over the rights of women and girls.
“Rather than endless litigation, we now need legislation from the Northern Ireland Assembly to bring our law into line with international standards. According to opinion polls, seven in ten people in Northern Ireland want to see the law reformed to allow for terminations in cases of rape, incest, or fatal foetal abnormality. That public support must now be translated into political action on behalf of women who are otherwise forced to take the plane to England.”
In November the Court found that Northern Ireland’s restrictive and punitive abortion laws deny women and girls their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to family and private life. In December the Court granted a ‘declaration of incompatibility’ that the existing legislation is contrary to human rights in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal diagnosis. This puts the onus on the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate to change the law to allow for abortion in such circumstances.
The law governing abortion in Northern Ireland is one of the most restrictive in Europe and carries the harshest criminal penalty of any European country – life imprisonment both for the woman who has an illegal abortion and for anyone who has assisted her.