Northern Ireland's abortion law breaches human rights, Belfast court rules

Northern Ireland's anti-abortion laws are in breach of human rights, the High Court ruled today (3 October).

The case was brought by Sarah Ewart who in 2013 was forced to travel to England for a termination after being told her unborn child had no chance of survival.

Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan said Sarah Ewart was a victim.

While Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said: "This ground breaking ruling is a huge win for abortion rights in Northern Ireland".

She said Ms Ewart had legal standing to challenge the law and had been affected by it.

Pressure has mounted to ease Northern Ireland's abortion rules after the neighboring Irish Republic voted overwhelmingly past year to repeal a similarly restrictive ban.

Abortion is likely to be legalised in Northern Ireland next year unless Stormont's Assembly after MPs at Westminster voted for the measure earlier this year.

"She has had to modify her behaviour in that she could not have medical treatment in Northern Ireland due to the risk of criminal prosecution".

"She may be actively affected in the future".

Keegan ruled that Northern Ireland's abortion law is incompatible with provisions on fatal foetal abnormality in the European Convention on Human Rights.

"For almost six years now I've not only been dealing with the experience of being denied an abortion following a fatal fetal diagnosis during pregnancy, but of being hauled through the courts so that others don't have to go through the trauma that I did", Ewart said.

She added: "It is a massive victory".

She said the prospect that another young woman would be required to pursue litigation and face the same "trauma and pain" should be avoided in future.

Currently, there is no sign that they will reach a resolution by 21 October, and so it's likely that - despite this historic case ruling - it will be the intervention by Westminster that brings Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to human rights.

'It has been a massive stress emotionally on the family but six years later let's enjoy today.

In the unlikely event that the change of the abortion law is not imposed by London, Thursday's ruling means the Belfast court could take steps that would force lawmakers to act.

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