Northern Ireland Moves to Relax Strict Abortion Laws
In November, the Belfast High Court ruled that Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law is “incompatible with human rights” in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, rape and incest, the Guardian (UK) reported. The next step would be for the Northern Ireland Assembly to create new legislation on the abortion law, which currently allows access only to women whose lives or health are endangered by a pregnancy. In January, the BBC reported that Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin and Justice Minister David Ford were appealing the decision. Ford told the Belfast Telegraph that the recent ruling “potentially leaves open the possibility there could be abortion on demand in Northern Ireland.” The Guardian reported that Tim Bartlett, secretary of the Catholic Council for Social Affairs, warned that the church could lodge “a fundamental challenge” to the ruling. This is due to the fact that the Catholic church was listed as an “interested party” in the legal case, which gives church officials the right to be heard in the appeal.
Alliance for Choice, a prochoice group based in Northern Ireland, told the Broadly – Vice blog, “Catholic women in [Northern Ireland and the Republic of] Ireland … have long since made decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives based on their own consciences.” In Northern Ireland, where approximately half of the population is Catholic, around 800 women travel to England for an abortion each year.