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Northern Ireland Termination Law Breaches Women and Girls' Human Rights

07 Jun 2018

Northern Ireland Termination Law Breaches Women and Girls’ Human Rights

INTERVIEW REQUESTS: CONTACT Zara Porter on 07795640237. For further information, please contact on.

INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE WITH: LES ALLAMBY, CHIEF COMMISSIONER OF THE NORTHERN IRELAND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION Outside Supreme Court in London on 7 June after judgment is delivered (10.00am approx)

The UK Supreme Court has delivered its judgment in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s challenge to change Termination of Pregnancy laws. The Court concluded the current law in Northern Ireland breaches human rights, in particular women and girls’ right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest. The Court also concluded that the Commission could not bring proceedings in its own name in this case without a victim.

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby commented:

“The Highest Court in the UK has today agreed with the Commission that Northern Ireland’s laws on Termination of Pregnancy are incompatible with human rights. We took this case to bring greater clarity to the law and we welcome the Court’s decision. For over five years now the Commission has exhausted every legal hurdle. We would like to acknowledge everyone who has been involved in working alongside us. In particular, the Commission pays tribute to the many women and girls who have spoken publicly about their difficult personal experiences since we embarked on this case.

The Commission took this case to support and protect women and girls in Northern Ireland and we will continue to do this by whatever means we can. There is a much greater open public debate about the issue and the need for reform. The law now needs to change to stop women and girls from further anxiety and suffering. In the absence of the NI Executive and Assembly it falls to the UK Government to make this change and it must act without delay. The Commission is disappointed that the Court did not support the arguments that we had sufficient powers to take the case in our own name. We acted in this way in order prevent any woman or girl from having to face the burden of doing so. One issue all the judges agreed on was that the current law in Northern Ireland is deeply unsatisfactory. As a result, it is clear we need to bring our own laws on termination into compliance with human rights standards.”

The Commission will now consider this judgment in full.


For further information, please contact Zara Porter on 07795640237.

Notes to Editors

1. The judgment will be delivered at 9.45am in Court Room one in London. You can watch live at

2. The Supreme Courts Findings: The Supreme Court concluded that the law on termination of pregnancy with respect to women in circumstances of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality was in breach of Article 8 ECHR. The Court also concluded that the Commission does not have competence to bring proceedings in its own name without a victim.

The Court also recognised that there could be individual cases, which could meet the threshold for a breach of Article 3, but the majority did not agree that the law, in general terms, was in breach of Article 3.

In the judgement Lord Mance notes that “the present law clearly needs radical reconsideration” and that those responsible “will no doubt recognise and take account of these conclusions, at as early a time as possible, by considering whether and how to amend the law, in the light of the ongoing suffering being caused by it as well as the likelihood that a victim of the existing law would have standing to pursue similar proceedings to reach similar conclusions and to obtain a declaration of incompatibility in relation to the 1861 Act.”

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