Supreme Court rejects attempt to liberalise Northern Ireland abortion law

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The law on abortion in Northern Ireland explained

The party's chief whip, Jeffrey Donaldson, told parliament he was "proud of the fact that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of both women and of the unborn child".

The justices went on to say, however, that a majority finds Northern Ireland's abortion prohibitions "disproportionate" and that they violate European human rights laws.

According to Precious Life, a pro-life group in Northern Ireland, the pro-abortion Labour MP Stella Creasy has secured an emergency debate on Northern Ireland's abortion laws June 5 in the UK's House of Commons.

Abortion is illegal except where a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

The commission previous year argued that the current law criminalises "exceptionally vulnerable" women and girls and subjects them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

Karen Bradley has said she personally backs abortion reform - but the Northern Ireland Assembly must be restored to consider the issue to avoid disenfranchising 1.8 million people. [It] makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue.

The issue is further clouded by the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, a power-sharing regional government set up by the 1998 Good Friday accord.

At some point in the future, these past two weeks may come to be seen as a tipping point, the moment when the drive to ease the draconian restrictions on abortion in Northern Ireland became an unstoppable force.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said abortion is a devolved matter and should only be dealt with by Stormont, which is now suspended.

"Abortion in cases where there is a fatal fetal abnormality or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest is available throughout the vast majority of countries in Europe", Supreme Court Justice Brian Kerr said in his written judgment in support of the court's conclusions.

MsEwart, who has campaigned for change alongside Amnesty International since her abortion, said Northern Ireland's politicians should put their "religious beliefs behind them and do their job".

But that decision was overturned in June previous year by three of Northern Ireland's most senior judges.

Sarah Ewart, a woman who was forced to travel to the United Kingdom for an abortion after being told her baby would not survive, intervened alongside Amnesty in the case.

For Sinn Fein, Mrs O'Neill said she wanted repeal of the relevant sections of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act to ensure abortion was no longer treated as a criminal offence in the region. "What we need is compassion and services in Northern Ireland".

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