– UK Supreme Court dismisses legal challenge to Northern Irish abortion laws in a majority decision
– 100,000 people alive today because of Northern Ireland’s pro-life legislation
LONDON/BELFAST (7.6.2018) –On 7 June, the UK Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had brought a judicial review action against the government arguing that pro-life laws, which do not allow abortion in cases of sexual offences, “fatal foetal abnormality”, and “serious malformation of the foetus” violated the European Convention on Human Rights. By a 4-3 majority, the Supreme Court held that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission did not have the standing to bring the proceedings before the court, and dismissed the appeal.
We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the challenge to Northern Ireland’s pro-life laws.
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the challenge to Northern Ireland’s pro-life laws. At least 100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because the Northern Ireland Assembly declined to adopt the 1967 Abortion Act,” said Laurence Wilkinson, an English Solicitor and Legal Counsel for ADF International based in London.
“Having dealt with the procedural question that led to the challenge being dismissed, the seven justices then engaged in hundreds of paragraphs of non-binding observations on the precise scope of the protections for unborn life. The significant disagreement among the judges reveals the complete lack of consensus on the application of human rights law to the rights of the unborn, and demonstrates why such highly sensitive and moral questions must be a matter for elected representatives, in this case, the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
No right to abortion under international law
The Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland had previously given constitutional deference to the Northern Ireland Assembly, finding that the most appropriate setting to determine abortion laws was in the devolved legislature. The Assembly had considered, and rejected, the changes sought in this case as recently as 2016. When the case was appealed to the UK Supreme Court, ADF International alongside Christian Action, Research, and Education (CARE) and Professor Patricia Casey, intervened and made oral submissions to the Justices in October 2017.
“International law protects the right to life of every human being. The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically calls for special safeguards and care before as well as after birth. Northern Ireland’s laws provide strong protections for the mother and her child, and despite the arguments made before the Supreme Court, it remains the case that there is no right to abortion under international law,” said Wilkinson.