June 7 (UPI) — The British Supreme Court rejected an appeal Thursday challenging the legality of Northern Ireland’s abortion law but ruled it’s incompatible with human rights.
In a 4-3 vote, justices said they have no jurisdiction to consider the latest attempt to overturn Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law because there’s no victim of an unlawful act.
The high court said it would have required the case to have been brought by a woman who was pregnant as a result of a sex crime or who was carrying a fetus with a fatal abnormality.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which filed the appeal, argued the law subjects women to “inhuman and degrading” treatment and cause “physical and mental torture,” in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
A majority of the judges said the law is incompatible with the right to respect for private and family life as guaranteed by the convention.
The law allows for abortions in Northern Ireland only if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.
Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr and Lord Wilson said the law is incompatible in restricting abortion in cases of rape and incest and fatal fetal abnormality.
“I would have concluded, without real hesitation at the end of the day, that the current Northern Ireland law is incompatible with article 8 of the European human rights convention insofar as it prohibits abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape and incest but not insofar as it prohibits abortion in cases of serious fetal abnormality,” Lord Mance said in the judgement.
Although the case was technically dismissed and the judges didn’t formally declare incompatibility, Thursday’s judgment could put political pressure on Northern Ireland’s government to deal with the issue.
The ruling comes after Ireland voted in a referendum to reform its strict abortion law, which had effectively banned all terminations.