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Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission set for abortion law battle

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 28/01/2016

Les Allamby
Les Allamby

A public body is poised to challenge all appeals to a High Court ruling that found Northern Ireland's abortion law is incompatible with human rights.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) said it will "cross appeal" legal challenges to the landmark ruling on Northern Ireland's restrictive abortion law.

The news comes as new figures show there were 16 legal NHS terminations in hospitals across the province in 2014/15 - a decrease of seven from the previous year.

The NIHRC is preparing to take legal action after Justice Minister David Ford and Attorney General John Larkin said they will lodge appeals against Mr Justice Horner's judgment, made in December.

The judge ruled the law does not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or sexual crime.

The case was brought by the Human Rights Commission. Mr Ford, however, whose department supports a law change in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, is challenging specific elements of the judgment.

He said he was concerned that a lack of "legal certainty" due to that ruling could lead inadvertently to abortion on demand.

Mr Larkin is appealing against the entirety of the ruling.

NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby said: "The commission will now cross appeal both the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. We will reintroduce all of the original grounds brought before the court.

"The choice of accessing a termination of pregnancy in circumstances of serious malformation of foetus (including fatal foetal abnormality), rape or incest, without being criminalised for doing so, should be made available in Northern Ireland."

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