For immediate release



Northern Ireland's abortion law is "untenable" "disproportionate", and needs "radical reconsideration", the Supreme Court has said today.

In a long-awaited judgment, a majority of the Supreme Court held that the current law on abortion in Northern Ireland is in breach of human rights.

It found the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission did not have standing to bring these proceedings, and hence the Court had no jurisdiction to make a declaration of incompatibility.

However, the Court was clear that the prohibition of abortion in Northern Ireland in cases where the foetus will not survive birth (referred to as cases of fatal foetal abnormality), rape and incest constitutes a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Alliance for Choice and the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign welcome the acknowledgement by the Court that Northern Ireland’s abortion law is not fit for purpose, and urge Westminster take responsibility for these clear human rights breaches.

Unlike other parts of the UK, abortion in Northern Ireland is only permitted when necessary to preserve the life of the woman, or where there is a risk that she would become a ‘physical or mental wreck’. Those who procure terminations in other circumstances, including rape or incest, face up to life imprisonment under current laws.

More than 919 women last year were forced to travel to Britain for abortion care. The Court today acknowledged the ‘stress, indignity and expense of arranging for a mechanical process of abortion away from their familiar home surroundings and sources of local support’ and stated Northern Ireland ‘merely outsources the issue’.

Lord Mance stated: ‘the present law treats the pregnant woman as a vehicle who must (as far as Northern Ireland is concerned) be expected to carry a foetus to birth, whatever the other circumstances, and whatever her wishes, as long as this experience does not end her life or ruin her health.’

The Court heard the testimony of several women, who had been forced to leave Northern Ireland for terminations after receiving the devastating diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, and acknowledged their courage of telling their stories.

“We are incredibly grateful to these women for sharing such personal testimony. We have no doubt of the impact this had on the court in making today’s judgement,” said Emma Campbell from Alliance for Choice.

"The Supreme Court has today said that the current law in Northern Ireland is incompatible with human rights and gives no weight to a woman's person or autonomy," Ms Campbell added.

Cara Sanquest of London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign said: "This is a matter of utmost urgency. Women’s human rights are being breached on a daily basis."

"Westminster must stop turning a blind eye to the human rights breaches which UK citizens in Northern Ireland are faced with, and stop turning a blind eye to it’s international human rights obligations. The onus is now on the government at Westminster to act, so that citizens across the UK have their human rights respected, not just those who live in Scotland, England and Wales." Ms Sanquest added.


Lord Mance told the Court: "The present law clearly needs radical reconsideration.

"Those responsible for ensuring compatibility of Northern Ireland law with the Convention rights will no doubt recognise and take account of these conclusions at a time as early as possible, by considering whether and how to amend the law in light of the ongoing suffering being caused."

Shortly after the judgement was handed down, Stella Creasy MP raised an urgent question in the House of Commons. Ms Creasy stated:

"Our own law is breaking the basic human rights of our own citizens [...] A clear majority of the Law Lords found that how women in Northern Ireland are treated is incompatible with Article 8 [...] The Secretary of State has the power to direct the Northern Irish Departments to take such action that is required under international obligations". Ms Creasy urged the Minister to name a date that the Domestic Abuse Bill will come to parliament will come to parliament so that Westminster can ‘end this scandal’ using a cross party proposal for an amendment to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 which would decriminalise abortion across the UK, including Northern Ireland.



For more information please contact:

Cara Sanquest -  00353 86 3346 762

Emma Campbell - 078 94 063965

Hannah Little