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Chief Commissioner comments on Termination of Pregnancy Appeal Ruling

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The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has commented on the Court of Appeal’s judgment today. The Court did not uphold the Commission’s challenge to the law on termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland. The judges were divided on whether to extend the common law and whether there was a breach of Article 8, the right to family and private life in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and victims of sexual crimes. All three judges acknowledged the importance of the legal issue and the need for the Northern Ireland Assembly to resolve this matter.

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby commented:

“We took this case as we want to bring about a change in the law so that women and girls in Northern Ireland have the choice of accessing a termination of pregnancy locally in circumstances of serious malformation of the foetus, rape or incest, without being criminalised for doing so.

We have heard many harrowing stories from vulnerable women and young girls who have been faced with very difficult situations and have also had to carry the fear of being criminalised alongside this. We want to ensure that the rights of vulnerable women and girls in these situations are always protected.

The Commission is disappointed with the judgment but retains its view that the law as it stands does not protect women and girls right to be free from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, their right to privacy or their right to freedom from discrimination. The Court indicated that if they receive an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court tomorrow they will be minded to grant such leave. This in my view is unprecedented and reflects recognition of how important the judges consider the issue to be. The Commission will now consider the Court’s invitation.”

29 Jun 2017