The urgent need for abortion law reform in Northern Ireland
David Pannick, QC
June 20, 2018
The recent Supreme Court judgment on abortion rights in Northern Ireland provides a compelling argument for law reform. There, it is a criminal offence for a pregnant woman to have an abortion, and for clinicians to assist her to do so, unless there is a risk to her life or a risk of serious long-term or permanent injury to her physical or medical health. Otherwise an abortion is unlawful, even if the pregnancy results from rape or incest, and even if there is a foetal abnormality that means that the foetus will die in the womb or very shortly after delivery. In such cases the law compels the woman to carry the foetus to term.
The Supreme Court of seven judges heard a claim brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission challenging these provisions under the Human Rights Act (HRA).