UK top court says can't enforce abortion law change in Northern Ireland

Don’t ask Northern Irish women to beg for their human rights with an abortion referendum

Caitlin protesting outside Downing Street in 2017

"All seven judges have also made clear that they would not have allowed abortion on the grounds of a serious malformation of the unborn child".

Despite the failure of the appeal Green Party MLA Clare Bailey welcomed the ruling that the law was not compatible with European human rights laws.

By a majority decision, the justices said that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), which brought the appeal, did not have the power to "institute abstract proceedings of this nature".

On this technicality, they indicated that the court is therefore unable to give an official judgement on the matter.

Setting out her views on the matter, Lady Hale indicated that she has considered the public mood in reaching her opinion.

She stressed the need for Northern Ireland's Stormont Assembly to be restored as it is now in what's called a devolved status.

"This evidence can not be lightly dismissed when the argument is that profound moral views of the public are sufficient to outweigh the grave interference with the rights of the pregnant women entailed in making them continue their pregnancies to term even though they, by definition, have reached a different moral conclusion - no doubt, for many, an agonising one". It is prohibited in all other circumstances, including in cases of rape and incest or if the fetus is diagnosed with a fatal abnormality-a stricter test than in Catholic, conservative Poland.

"A majority of the court does however consider that the current law in Northern Ireland is disproportionate and incompatible with Art 8 ECHR insofar as that law prohibits abortion in cases of (a) fatal foetal abnormality, (b) pregnancy as a result of rape and (c) pregnancy as a result of incest". "Courts should not make decisions freighted with the individual attitudes of the judiciary".

"Until such times as the legal framework caters for what are very basic human rights, our client, Sarah Ewart, has made it clear that she will continue to take the case to the highest level to ensure that no woman has to go through the traumatic experience in which she was so forced". "A dispassionate analysis of the legal issues was needed".

It said the near-total ban on terminations breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

She said May has an obligation to make sure the United Kingdom government is "now longer acting unlawfully by breaching the human rights of women across Northern Ireland".

The remaining three judges disagreed.

Pro-choice groups may have lost this particular battle but they are "winning the war", said Liberty, the human rights organisation, after Thursday's supreme court judgment.

"A majority concludes that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission does not have standing to bring these proceedings".

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