British Govt to Pay for NI Abortions
The British Chancellor of the Exchequer has said the UK government will fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland. Philip Hammond made the promise after the Court of Appeal in Belfast overturned an earlier court decision that claimed Northern Ireland’s law on abortion is incompatible with human rights legislation. The appeals court ruled that it is a matter that should properly be dealt with by the Stormont Assembly rather than the judiciary.
But anticipating a further challenge to their ruling, the three-judge panel also took the unusual step of indicating they will grant leave to take the case to the Supreme Court in London. Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin QC and the Department of Justice were both appealing the earlier ruling.
In 2015 the High Court ruled the failure to provide exceptions for abortions for cases of so-called fatal foetal abnormalities and to victims of rape or incest breaches private and family life entitlements under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In front of a packed courtroom, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Gillen and Lord Justice Weatherup quashed the High Court declaration. By a majority view they concluded that the court should not intervene, instead leaving it for the Assembly to decide on any changes to abortion laws.
Lord Justice Gillen stressed that the courts should be cautious about interfering in such a complex and controversial issue touching on social, moral and religious policies on which there is no consensus in Europe or within Northern Ireland. “Such an issue require Parliament to be allowed a wide margin of judgment,” he said. “Whatever its defects in the eyes of some, or perhaps many, the current law provides a measure of certainty and legislative accountability. “I consider that a fair balance has been struck by the law as it presently stands until the legislature decides otherwise.”
The Irish Times. June 29.