Abortions Under NI Law Down but Challenges Persist


Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has published details of the number of abortions performed there in 2017/18. In total, there were 12 abortions performed in Northern Ireland in that period. This is one less than in the previous year. The number of women travelling from Northern Ireland for abortions in Britain, however, has been increasing since authorities there began to offer them free of charge.


The information was published amid an ongoing and multi-faceted campaign to change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland.


Labour MP Stella Creasy is continuing her attempts to impose a change of law from Westminster, something that politicians in Northern Ireland insist would be a breach of devolution. The Walthamstow MP is seeking to amend a Bill on domestic violence in order to remove legal restrictions on abortion in NI.


Meanwhile, a legal challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion law has begun at the High Court in Belfast. Sarah Ewart (28), from Belfast, travelled to England in 2013 for an abortion after her baby was diagnosed with a serious disability. She is arguing that the existing legal restrictions on abortion in Northern Ireland breached her human rights.


Last year a majority of UK Supreme Court judges held that the NI abortion laws breach the UK’s human rights obligations. But they rejected the case brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission because it did not have the necessary legal standing. Ms Ewart has now brought a challenge in her own name, as a woman directly affected by the current law. Opening the case before Mrs Justice Keegan, her lawyers relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s findings.


Describing the abortion in England, Ewart’s barrister Adam Straw said, “she found it traumatic and undignified, like a conveyor belt, leaving her feeling vulnerable and humiliated.”


The application for judicial review is being directed against the Department of Justice and the Department of Health at Stormont. Attorney General John Larkin QC is also set to make submissions during the two-day hearing.

NI Dept. of Health. January 23. Politics Home. January 30. The Irish Times. January 30.

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