Amnesty calls for legislative reform after NI abortion judgment

Grainne Teggart

Grainne Teggart, campaign manager for Amnesty’s My Body My Rights campaign

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has welcomed yesterday’s judgment that preventing access to abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) and pregnancies as a result of sexual crimes is unlawful.

A challenge was brought against Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which said the existing practices contravene Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Grainne Teggart, campaign manager for Amnesty’s My Body My Rights campaign, said the decision was a “hugely significant step towards ensuring the right to access abortion for women and girls in Northern Ireland who have been raped, are victims of incest or whose pregnancies have been given a fatal foetal diagnosis”.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton has since circulated new draft guidelines on abortion law and practice to his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive.

However, human rights campaigners and pro-choice politicians have called on Mr Hamilton to initiate urgent legislative change through the Northern Ireland Assembly in light of the ruling.

Ms Teggart added: “It’s shameful that the Courts have had to step in because politicians have repeatedly failed Northern Ireland’s women. Northern Ireland’s abortion laws must be brought into the twenty-first century and into line with international law as a matter of urgency.”

Clare Bailey, deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, added: “Mr Justice Horner has recognised that women who have suffered sexual crime or in cases of fatal foetal abnormality should be afforded choice over their decisions.

“No woman takes the decision to have a termination lightly and they should be given every support necessary, not forced into a decision because there are no alternatives.

“I can only hope that Northern Ireland’s politicians are listening and take steps to amend legislation as a matter of urgency.”

Attorney General John Larkin, named as a notice party in the case, has said he is “considering the grounds for appeal” in the aftermath of the ruling.