Legal challenge to abortion law in Northern Ireland delayed

Legal challenge to abortion law in Northern Ireland delayed

Credit: Alex Krisan/Shutterstock.
Credit: Alex Krisan/Shutterstock.

.- A legal challenge to the prosecution of a Northern Irish woman who allegedly procured abortifacient medication for her underage daughter which was to have begun Thursday has been adjourned.

Declan Morgan, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, said Sept. 20 that “dealing with the case in the absence of understanding the Public Prosecution Service response to the Supreme Court would be entirely inappropriate.”

Abortion is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health. Abortion pills are illegal in Northern Ireland.

In June, the UK Supreme Court threw out a case challenging Northern Ireland's abortion law, saying the commission which brought the case does not have standing to do so. However, the judges also said the current law violates the European Convention on Human Rights by banning abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, and incest.

Morgan has delayed the hearing challenging the law, directing prosecutors to respond to the Supreme Court's indications within two weeks.

The woman faces two charges of unlawfully procuring and supplying the pills with intent to cause a miscarriage under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

She had purchased the pills online in July 2013 for her 15-year-old daughter.

Bernie Smyth, a spokesperson for the pro-life group Precious Life, said outside the Belfast court that “the importance of this case is to send a very clear message out to the people in Northern Ireland, to women in Northern Ireland who would feel maybe their only option is to purchase very dangerous illegal abortion pills and we are saying there is another way.”

“It is vitally important that we uphold the law here in Northern Ireland,” iNews reported Smyth as saying.

Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the United Kingdom up to 24 weeks, and Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

In its June 2018 judgement, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that banning the abortion of unborn children with serious, but not fatal, abnormalities is compatible with the ECHR.

Northern Ireland's abortion law could be taken up by either the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is currently suspended. The Democratic Unionist Party, the largest party, is opposed to changing the law. Sinn Féin, another prominent party in Northern Ireland, backs a liberalization of the abortion law.

British prime minister Theresa May has said abortion should be a devolved issue for Northern Ireland. But Labour MP Diana Johnson is expected to introduce next month into the British Parliament a bill to decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland.

Tags: Abortion, Pro-life, Catholic News, Mifepristone, Abortion in Ireland, Chemical abortion