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Ethics – The wrong forum

February 2016

The High Court in Northern Ireland (NI) has delivered a judgment that the laws on abortion in the country are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Horner of the NI High Court, ruled that the abortion laws are in breach of the ECHR, because they do not allow for abortion on grounds of sexual crime and fatal foetal abnormality.

According to a statement from Christian charity CARE, the High Court should not be able to overturn the will of the NI Assembly. It also claimed the judge had ‘overstepped the mark’ with regard to the European Convention.

The statement said: ‘Mr Justice Horner in his judgment has interpreted the law in an unprecedented way. The judgment, if it is upheld, could have widespread ramifications far beyond Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland especially could be affected. The right forum for these issues to be debated and decided is our elected legislature and not the High Court’.

The statement also pointed out that the judgment stood at odds with the Department of Justice’s public consultation on abortion law reform in 2015, in which the overwhelming majority of consultees were strongly opposed to changing the law to permit abortion on grounds of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.

The Department of Justice and the Attorney General can appeal against the judgment which has been made.

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