NRL News

Legal Challenge to Northern Ireland’s Abortion Law

by | Jan 13, 2015


Editor’s note. The following are two separate stories posted today by the Irish pro-life group,

Archbishop Eamon Martin

Archbishop Eamon Martin

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has launched a legal bid to preempt the public consultation that is currently underway and obtain a change in the law to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or “serious malformation” of a foetus. Pro-life group Precious Life and the Family Planning Association have both registered an interest in the proceedings which are listed for hearing on February 2.

The Abortion Act of England and Wales does not apply in Northern Ireland. Currently, abortion is only legal if a woman’s life is at risk, or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health. The NIHRC claims the existing law represents “a violation of human rights.”

The Department of Justice previously described the NIHRC challenge as “ill-timed and unnecessary”.

Precious Life director Bernadette Smyth said that “contrary to what the NIHRC would like to believe, not one international human rights instrument recognizes a right to abortion.”

Meanwhile a prominent lawyer and member of the House of Lords has resigned from the medical ethics committee of the British Medical Association after it called for the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan, who served as the first Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, told a Catholic newspaper that she “had no option but to resign”, having been appointed to the committee in July.

“I believe in the sanctity and sacredness of human life so I could not commit to anything inconsistent with that position”, she explained.

The BMA’s medical ethics committee debates issues on the relationship between the medical profession, the public and the state, alongside liaising with the General Medical Council. The committee stated it favored extending the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, after which Baroness O’Loan announced her resignation. She said, “I had to resign as I believe it is a flawed piece of legislation.”

Baroness O’Loan has been a crossbencher (independent) member of the House of Lords since 2009.


Robust Defense of Unborn Promised by Archbishop Eamon Martin

Archbishop Eamon Martin [primate of All-Ireland] has promised a “robust defense” of the right to life of mothers and unborn babies diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities when Catholic Church representatives meet Northern Ireland’s Minister for Justice this week.

He appealed to Catholics courageously to seek “a culture of life” and to ask their politicians where they stand on the issue. The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland signaled the Church’s willingness to challenge the political establishment over the issue as Stormont carries out a consultation on proposed changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion law. Archbishop Martin described as “extraordinary and unprecedented” the attempt to exclude pro-life arguments from the debate.

Citing Pope Francis, he also criticized the “throwaway” culture which weighs one life as more important and worthy of protection than another, and which “would even discard the right to life of the most vulnerable.”

Urging people to participate in the consultation process, Archbishop Martin said the consultation document “proposes that totally innocent and terminally ill babies in the womb will no longer have an absolute right to life, nor the right to all the care and medical support that we would expect and wish for any child or adult who is terminally ill.”

Archbishop Martin said that the Catholic delegation meeting the Minister and his officials would call “for all the love and support that we as a society can give” to families where a baby is diagnosed with a terminal illness. He said this must include “the ready availability of quality peri-natal and post-natal hospice care and of counseling for those faced with the trauma and anxiety of having a terminally ill unborn child.”

Categories: Abortion