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Two challenges to ruling that sets the stage for undermining Northern Ireland’s protective abortion law

by | Jan 27, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

Northern Ireland’s attorney general, John Larkin Photograph: Press Association

Northern Ireland’s attorney general, John Larkin Photograph: Press Association

When last we posted on abortion in Northern Ireland, Mr. Justice Mark Horner had largely agreed with The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission that Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by not allowing for abortions in cases of fatal fetal anomaly, rape, and incest.

However, even though Justice Horner’s decision was a blistering denunciation of current law, delivered over the course of two hours, when he subsequently read his final conclusion in December, Justice Horner told a packed hearing at Belfast High Court it would be “a step too far” for him to interpret sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 to allow for abortion in these three instances.

Thus, Northern Ireland’s Parliament is not obliged to pass new legislation on abortion, although all agreed the decision laid the foundation for what pro-abortionists like to call a “relaxation” of the law. The very pro-abortion BBC argued the decision “placed an onus on the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate on the issue.”

Northern Ireland's Minister of Justice David Ford

Northern Ireland’s Minister of Justice David Ford

Which brings us to two different but related appeals of Judge Horner’s decision.

On Monday Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin confirmed that his office has launched an appeal to overturn Justice Horner’s ruling. Back in November Larkin said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the decision and was considering the grounds for appeal. According to the Irish Times he is challenging the entirety of the decision.

He’s been joined by Northern Ireland’s justice minister, David Ford, whom, according to the Irish Times is challenging specific elements of the decision.

Ford told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme that “The real danger is that the way the judgement read human rights law.” The BBC reported, “Mr. Ford said this potentially goes ‘beyond the 1967 act as it applies in the rest of the United Kingdom.’” (Unlike other parts of the United Kingdom, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland which has a very protective abortion law.)

“David Ford said he was concerned that a lack of ‘legal certainty’ could lead inadvertently to abortion on demand,” the BBC reported.

Categories: Abortion