Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Poots' claims on abortion laws invite European challenge

Abortion in the Republic is governed by the same pre-partition 1861 Offences Against the Person Act as we use here.

That makes the recommendations of the expert group on abortion particularly relevant to us.

Even before the death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway, the Republic already had a European Court of Human Rights judgment - ordering it to provide legal certainty on the issue - hanging over it.

The expert group has advised it that it is unlikely to meet its obligations to Europe without primary legislation either to replace the 1861 Act, or to give legal force to new regulations.

This makes claims by Edwin Poots (right), our health minister, that "the law is clear here ... I will not be bringing anything before the House to change that law" look hollow. He said that at Stormont on Monday - the day before the expert group findings were published.

That approach won't work in the long-term. It simply invites an expensive European challenge, which will cost a packet to defend and produce the same result as occurred in the Republic's case. There is no point reinventing the wheel - much less awaiting a disaster like Savita Halappanavar's death.

Our politicians could watch what happens in Dublin and follow suit.

That way, they may get abortion legislation which is likely to be less liberal than in the UK's 1967 Act.

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