Human Rights Commission Welcomes Courts Decision to Review Termination of Pregnancy Law

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2 February 2015

The Human Rights Commission is pleased that its application for a judicial review has been granted today. We are seeking a change in the law so that women and girls in Northern Ireland have the choice of accessing a termination of pregnancy in circumstances of serious malformation of the foetus, rape or incest. We believe the law as it stands violates human rights.

Given the vulnerability of women and girls in these situations, we consider it of public importance to bring this case. The full Court hearing date has now been fixed for 15 June 2015.

For further information please contact: Claire Martin on 07717731873 Claire.Martin@nihrc.org

Notes to Editors

1. The Human Rights Commission applied for leave to judicially review the law on termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland at the High Court on Monday 2nd February 2015.

2. Judicial Review Application: At an application for leave hearing both sides present their cases as to why the case should or should not proceed to a full hearing. The judge will determine at this application stage if the case will proceed to a full hearing. The judge may also grant permission for third parties to intervene at this stage.

3. A fact sheet setting out some Frequently Asked Questions about the case is available here.

4. The Commission is seeking a change in the law so that women and girls in Northern Ireland have the choice of accessing a termination of pregnancy in circumstances of serious malformation of the foetus, rape or incest.

5. Termination of pregnancy is currently available in Northern Ireland if it is necessary to preserve the life of a woman including where there is a risk of a serious and adverse effect on her physical or mental health which is either long term or permanent.

6. The Commission issued legal proceedings against the Department of Justice in December 2014. Since November 2013 the Commission have repeatedly advised the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the existing law is, in the Commission’s view, a violation of human rights.

7. In forming this view on access to termination of pregnancy services the Commission has considered the full range of internationally accepted human rights standards, including the European Convention on Human Rights as incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the treaty obligations of the Council of Europe and the United Nations systems.

8. The legal case is that Articles 3,8,and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights are directly engaged:

Article 3: Freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Prohibits torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. There are no exceptions or limitations on this right.

Article 8: Right to privacy

(1) Everyone has the right for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 14: Discrimination

The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

9. The Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect human rights. In accordance with section 69(1) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice relating to the protection of human rights in Northern Ireland.


02 Feb 2015