NI: Abortion amendments fail to pass in Northern Ireland Assembly

Les Allamby, NIHRC chief commissioner
Les Allamby, NIHRC chief commissioner

Proposed amendments to the Justice (No. 2) Bill aimed at allowing abortion in the event of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) and pregnancy as a consequence of sexual crime have fallen.

MLAs voted against amendment 61, allowing abortion in the case of FFA, by 59-40 with two abstentions, while MLAs voted against amendment 68, allowing abortion where the pregnancy is the consequence of sexual crimes, by 64-32 with one abstention.

MLAs arguing for the amendments said they would bring the law in line with a recent High Court judgment that found the existing laws breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

A successful judicial review was brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) against the Department of Justice last year in relation to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

In an “historic” ruling, the court held that article 8 of the European Convention is breached by the general prohibition of abortions in cases of FFA and pregnancies as a consequence of sexual crimes.

The decision is currently being appealed by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and in part by the Department of Justice.

Les Allamby, NIHRC chief commissioner, has expressed regret that the law change was rejected yesterday.

He said: “The Northern Ireland Assembly has failed to act in accordance with the court judgement.

“Our elected representatives have neglected the fundamental rights of vulnerable women and girls facing the most difficult circumstances, when they could have resolved the situation.

“The legal process will however continue. The Commission will cross appeal both the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. We will be re-introducing all of the original grounds brought before the court, including the circumstances of serious malformation of the foetus.”

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