Northern Irish abortion laws lead to ‘physical and mental torture’

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Oct 25, 2017
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Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, even in cases of rape or incest

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The strict abortion laws in Northern Ireland criminalise “exceptionally vulnerable” women and girls and subject them to “inhuman and degrading” treatment, the UK’s highest court has been told.

Supreme Court justices in London were told yesterday that victims of serious sexual crime were being forced to live with its consequences for the rest of their lives.

Nathalie Lieven, QC, of Blackstone Chambers in London, told the court that “in the case of pregnancies involving a serious foetal abnormality, they are carrying a foetus with a serious, and often fatal, abnormality to term, knowing that it may not survive at all, or for long — or that if it does survive it will be left with serious disabilities”.

The silk was appearing for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which is asking the court to rule that a prohibition on abortions where a pregnancy arises from rape or incest, or “involves a serious foetal abnormality”, is unlawful.

Lieven said that women’s human rights were being breached, with those affected being forced to go through “physical and mental torture”.

At the start of a three-day hearing, Lieven argued that the criminal law on termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland discriminated against women and girls on the grounds of sex, and also amounted to an “unjustified” breach of their personal right to autonomy.

Lieven told Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, Lord Mance, deputy president, and five other justices that victims of serious sexual crime who had to carry a pregnancy to term were being forced to live with the consequences of that crime for the rest of their lives.

The hearing continues.

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