NI: Ford to seek NI Executive’s agreement to amend abortion law

NI: Ford to seek NI Executive's agreement to amend abortion law

Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford has said he will continue to press the Northern Ireland Executive to agree to bring forward legislation allowing abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA).

However, Mr Ford said changing the law around abortion in the event of pregnancies as a consequence of sexual crimes would present “difficult challenges”.

He made the remarks in the aftermath of a High Court ruling which found that legislation governing abortion in Northern Ireland is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

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

Mr Ford said: “The decision by Justice Horner to make a declaration of incompatibility was not unexpected and we now need time to consider the next steps.

“I have already asked the Executive for agreement to bring forward draft legislation to exempt from the criminal law abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. The judgement does not alter my position on this policy objective and I will continue to seek Executive approval to progress this aim.

“I also said in response to the consultation on abortion law carried out earlier this year that the complexities of legislating in respect of sexual crime were such that it was not possible to make detailed proposals at that time but that the Department would consider further.

“It remains my view that legislating in this regard will present very difficult challenges.”

Clare Bailey, deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, said the ruling exposed Northern Ireland’s “archaic law on abortion”.

The Green Party is the only party in the Northern Ireland Assembly that fully supports the extension of the Abortion Act 1967 from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Ms Bailey added: “We now need our politicians to step up and trust women to make their own decisions and not have decisions imposed on them due to having no choice.

“Politicians need to take action to ensure our laws do not contravene international human rights.

“Mature and sensible debate, which puts women at the centre of decision-making, is needed, rather than barbaric laws.”

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