High court rules Northern Ireland's abortion ban violates human rights

High court rules Northern Ireland's abortion ban violates human rights
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Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law violates human rights, the high court in Belfast ruled Thursday, according to the BBC.

Sarah Ewart, who brought the case against the law, was told by doctors that her unborn child would not survive outside the womb.

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However, she was denied an abortion in 2013 under Northern Irish law, which, unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, allows the procedure only to save the life of the mother or to prevent permanent mental or physical damage. There are no exceptions for rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormalities.

"Today's ruling is a vindication of all those women who have fought tirelessly to ensure that we never again have to go through what I did in 2013,” Ewart said following the ruling.

The law had previously been challenged in court by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, but the court dismissed it on a technicality, saying the plaintiff would need to be a woman seeking an abortion due to rape or a fatal fetal abnormality.

Ewart agreed to join the case after that ruling.

"Sarah should not have had to take this case in the first place - in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled clearly that Northern Ireland laws ran contrary to human rights standards," Les Allamby, of the commission said. "Parliament should have changed the law then without delay."

The challenge is separate from a vote in Parliament in July that would automatically relax Northern Irish laws on abortion and same-sex marriage if Northern Ireland’s government does not restore devolution, or the transfer of power from Parliament to the Northern Ireland Assembly, by Oct. 21.

The heavily Catholic Republic of Ireland voted to legalize abortion in a 2018 voter referendum, which passed by about 30 points.