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Northern Ireland Attorney General lodges appeal over abortion ruling

Published 25/01/2016

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin is leading the challenge to the judge's ruling
Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin is leading the challenge to the judge's ruling

Northern Ireland's Attorney General has lodged an appeal against a High Court ruling that declared the region's strict abortion laws incompatible with human rights legislation.

John Larkin is to challenge Mr Justice Horner's judgment in the Court of Appeal.

The judge's landmark ruling last year had potentially paved the way for the relaxation of the current prohibition on women accessing terminations in cases of rape, incest or where there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

The judge's declaration of incompatibility did not immediately lift the current ban but had placed an onus on the Stormont Assembly to legislate on the contentious issue.

Judge Horner had ruled the failure to provide exceptions to the law in certain limited circumstances breached a woman's right to privacy.

In cases of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA), the judge concluded that the mother's inability to access an abortion was a "gross interference with her personal autonomy" and where a sexual crime has occurred the judge said a disproportionate burden was placed on victims.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland where abortions are illegal except where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.

Anyone who performs an illegal termination could be jailed for life.

Judge Horner made the ruling in a case taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission against Stormont's Department of Justice (DoJ).

The Attorney General's office confirmed an appeal had been lodged.

Amnesty International pledged to resist any attempt to overturn the judge's ruling.

Amensty's programme director in Northern Ireland Patrick Corrigan said: "The High Court made a very clear ruling that laws governing abortion in Northern Ireland breach the human rights of women and girls. That important ruling stands and we stand ready to resist any attempt to overturn it."

He added: "The Assembly must bring Northern Ireland's abortion laws into the twenty-first century and into line with international law as a matter of urgency."

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