Northern Ireland abortion law clashes with human rights, judges say

Supreme court dismisses bid to overturn law but adds to pressure on politicians to act

The supreme court has dismissed the latest attempt to overturn Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws but nonetheless concluded that they are incompatible with human rights.

By a narrow majority of four to three, justices at the UK’s highest court said it had no jurisdiction to consider the latest legal challenge because there was no actual or potential victim of an unlawful act involved in the case.

A majority of judges, however, went on to add that Northern Ireland’s abortion law was incompatible with the right to respect for private and family life as guaranteed by the European convention on human rights.

Four of the seven justices – Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson – said it was incompatible in prohibiting abortion in cases of rape and incest and fatal foetal abnormality. A fifth, Lady Black, agreed with them that it was incompatible in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

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