Court: Northern Ireland’s Strict Abortion Law ‘Breaches Human Rights’

access to abortions

A High Court ruling that Northern Ireland’s strict abortion law breaches the human rights of pregnant women has been condemned by pro-life groups.

Currently, abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger, however the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) recently brought a case to Belfast High Court saying it should also be legal for rape, incest and serious foetal malformation.

The BBC reports that judge Mr Justice Horner agreed, and ruled today that current legislation is a “gross interference with [a woman’s] personal autonomy”. He said that as the issue was unlikely to be decided on by the Northern Ireland legislature for the foreseeable future, the current legislation was in breach of their human rights.

However, Northern Ireland’s attorney general John Larkin said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the ruling and added that the Northern Ireland Executive was “considering the grounds for appeal”.

The ruling has been criticised by pro-life campaigners. Campaign group Right to Life called the decision “ridiculous”, adding: “The justification of the violation of the right to life of an unborn child by reference to a mother’s rights to privacy and family life is nothing short of ludicrous, not to mention ethically revolting. We hope the Northern Irish Justice Department appeals this invidious and appalling decision.”

Marion Woods, Northern Ireland spokeswoman for charity LIFE said “The NI law on abortion reflects the democratic will of the people of Northern Ireland expressed through their elected political representatives in the Assembly.

“This case therefore represents an attempt to change the law against the will of the people of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

Liam Gibson, Northern Ireland development officer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said: “The ruling by Judge Mark Horner is dangerously flawed. The judge misrepresented the protection of children before birth in case law and statute law in Northern Ireland. He also confused the separate legal issues of viability and the capacity to be born alive.

He added: “Not one universal human rights treaty recognises a right to abortion. However, the right to life is shared by all members of the human family.”

Follow Nick Hallett on Twitter: or e-mail to:


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.