Belfast Telegraph

Message to our politicians is simple: this is matter for restored Stormont

By Peter Lynas

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission does not have the required standing to challenge abortion laws here.

A victory for the pro-life side.

However, it went on to say that if it had heard the case it would, by a split decision, have found Northern Ireland's laws were not human rights compliant.

A victory for the pro-choice side.

I spoke to the Human Rights Commissioner outside the court and he called it a score draw, which seemed fair.

Abortion is a sensitive subject and this judgment was about some of the most difficult cases. Two per cent of abortions involve serious disability of the unborn child and sexual crime - 98% of abortions involve a healthy mother and baby.

All seven Supreme Court judges hearing this case ruled that there is no human right to an abortion in the case of a serious abnormality or disability.

The judges noted that many with serious and even grave malformations go on to lead thriving lives.

This helpfully puts boundaries on the ongoing debate.

The Commission and human rights groups have been clearly told that there is no wider human right to abortion based on the child's disability or the mother's choice.

The push for wider change should stop.

The court did take the unusual step of offering its opinion on a case it had no right to hear.

In a series of split decisions, it said that the law should allow abortions on the grounds of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.

However, the court made clear that this part of its ruling was not in any sense binding. We know that there are over 100,000 people alive in Northern Ireland today because we did not bring in the 1967 Abortion Act.

We believe that both lives matter and that the compassionate and just response is to work together to provide better support for women in these very difficult situations.

The Assembly debated and voted against legalising abortion, even for the hard cases, in 2016.

There are proposals at Westminster to bring the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland or,even worse, full decriminalisation. On the day of the judgment, new statistics were released showing that there were 189,859 abortions in England and Wales in 2017.

Almost 40% of these were cases where the woman had at least one abortion before.

Few want Northern Ireland to follow that path.

The message to our politicians is simple - this is a devolved matter for Stormont, not Westminster, but also that Stormont needs to be restored so that abortion guidelines and other matters can be dealt with.

Belfast Telegraph

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