Commission welcomes Supreme Court judgment on Safe Access Zones Bill
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has welcomed the Supreme Court judgment today that the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Northern Ireland) Bill is compatible with human rights legislation.
The Commission had intervened in the case after a referral had been brought by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland. It argued that a provision in the Bill is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore beyond the legislative competency of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Chief Commissioner Alyson Kilpatrick commented:
“The Commission welcomes the Supreme Court judgment on the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Northern Ireland) Bill. In March this year we supported the passing of this legislation in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The Commission has heard experiences from many women who have spoken of the trauma and distress caused by having to run the gauntlet of these protests outside of facilities that provide abortion healthcare services. This harassment has had a negative impact both mentally and physically on those who wish to access these lawful services, as well as staff and other patients who use the facilities.
In the absence of an NI Executive, the Commission’s intervention and evidence from a Northern Ireland-specific perspective have been vital to the outcome of this case. This has included highlighting our recent abortion litigation and the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women Inquiry recommendations around safe access zones.
We believe the Bill helps protect the Article 8 (right to private and family life) rights of those women and girls accessing abortion services, as well as the staff providing them. Today’s judgment is a positive affirmation of women and girls rights to protection from harassment when accessing these services.
We look forward to the Bill receiving Royal Assent as a matter of urgency, empowering Health Trusts to ensure those who need healthcare advice or treatment in Northern Ireland can do so with fear or intimidation.”
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