Belfast Telegraph

Abortion: Judicial challenge to current law granted

Dawn Purvis, director of the Marie Stopes clinic, after yesterday’s ruling
Dawn Purvis, director of the Marie Stopes clinic, after yesterday’s ruling
Bernie Smyth of Precious Life during a protest outside the High Court

By Alan Erwin

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has won High Court permission to challenge abortion law in Northern Ireland.

A judge in Belfast granted leave to seek a judicial review amid claims the current near-blanket ban on terminations is a violation of human rights.

The commission issued proceedings against the Department of Justice as part of an attempt to secure a change in the law to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or serious foetal malformation.

Unlike other parts of the UK, terminations are currently only legal in Northern Ireland to protect the woman's life or where there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The court battle comes as Justice Minister David Ford continues a public consultation on amending the criminal law on abortion here. It includes a recommendation for proposed legislation allowing an abortion in circumstances where there is no prospect of the foetus being delivered and having a viable life.

According to counsel for the commission, the consultation does not commit to making the changes it believes are necessary.

Nathalie Lieven QC argued that the current situation breaches rights to freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination and entitlements to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.

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