BELFAST, Northern Ireland, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – A High Court judge’s decision to throw out part of Northern Ireland’s tough abortion law — in cases of rape and incest and fatal abnormalities in the unborn child — will “open the floodgates” to abortion on demand and be impossible to enforce, say pro-life groups. The country’s attorney general is considering an appeal.
The organization behind the court challenge, the taxpayer-funded Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), claims the ruling would only apply in a handful of cases.
But despite its allegedly limited scope, Les Allamby, the head of the NIHRC, called the ruling “historic,” adding, “We are please that today the high court has held that the current law is incompatible with human rights and has ruled in the commission’s favour.”
Pro-abortion groups such as Amnesty International also applauded the ruling. The onetime human rights proponent, lately turned abortion advocate, said it was shameful that laws survive that “date back to the 19th century and carry the harshest criminal penalties in Europe.”
Grainne Teggart, of Amnesty’s My Body, My Rights campaign, reserved his condemnation for the government, which for several years has had the right to repeal the 1861 law but refused. “Today’s court decision,” said Teggart, “is a damning indictment of the Northern Ireland executive’s failure to prioritise women’s healthcare. It’s shameful that the courts have had to step in because politicians have repeatedly failed Northern Ireland’s women.”
But the government isn’t changing its mind. Attorney General John Larkin responded to the judgement by saying he was “profoundly disappointed by this decision and I am considering grounds for appeal.”
Northern Ireland is still governed by 1861 British legislation replaced in the rest of the United Kingdom by the 1967 Abortion Act. The older law deems abortion to be murder, punishable by up to life imprisonment not only for the mother but accessories to the act, except when the mother’s life in the short- or long-term is put at risk.
That meant only two dozen abortions were done in Northern Ireland in 2013, the last year for which the government has released numbers. Meanwhile each year just under 1,000 women make what one abortion apologist termed “the difficult journey” (a 65-minute flight) to abortion facilities in England or Europe (well down from the 1,577 who went there in 2001).
This led abortion advocate Amelia Gentleman, writing in the newspaper, to complain that “The case looks only at women seeking an abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality. It will have no bearing on the difficulties experienced by the much larger numbers of women seeking an abortion simply because they do not wish to continue with a pregnancy for innumerable other reasons.”
The High Court’s Mr. Justice Mark Horner found the current law to be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case “of women in Northern Ireland who are pregnant with fatal foetal abnormalities or who are pregnant as a result of sexual crime.” Specifically, he said the convention’s article eight, covering the right to privacy, was “impugned.”
But Liam Gibson, the head of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Northern Ireland, said the decision used “flawed reasoning,” since unborn babies considered legal persons by the 1861 law were now to be deemed “not alive” under Horner’s ruling, if they might die because of an abnormality, or if delivering the baby might cause the mother sufficient distress.
“It’s an overly emotional result based on emotional arguments,” said Gibson. “It’s fair to say that he knew what he wanted his ruling to be from the start and was just looking for reasons for it.” Gibson said that the judge also appeared to believe the police could readily determine if a girl had been raped, and then issue her a “certificate” to that effect for medical authorities to authorize an abortion. This was “unworkable,” and would give way to automatic approval and false claims, said Gibson.
Gibson also argued that Judge Horner had wrongly found a right to abortion in the European Convention on Human Rights. “Not one universal human rights treaty recognises a right to abortion. However, the right to life is shared by all members of the human family. The (United Nations) Declaration on the Rights of the Child acknowledges that ‘the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.’”
The decision can be appealed to two higher levels of Northern Ireland’s courts.