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Northern Ireland and abortion

August 2015

Disabled unborn babies would have no rights, if a legal case seeking to weaken abortion law in Northern Ireland is upheld, the Belfast High Court has heard.

Judge Mark Horner reserved judgment in the contentious case, which is currently being brought by the taxpayer-funded Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC). The NIHRC is arguing for abortion to be extended to cases of ‘serious malformation of the foetus, rape or incest’. Currently abortion in Northern Ireland is illegal, except to save the life of the mother.

The Department of Justice (DoJ), which carried out a consultation on weakening the abortion law, from October 2014 to January 2015, attracted more than 25,000 responses. Fewer than 1 per cent were in favour.

Attorney General John Larkin QC told the court, ‘The Human Rights Commission wants to take away the right to life of disabled unborn children’. Brett Lockhart QC, representing Roman Catholic bishops’ concerns, warned that a change in the law could ‘open the floodgates for every type of disability’ and said that abortion is not the answer.

At the end of the hearing, Mr Justice Mark Horner said, ‘It will come as no surprise that I will not be making an immediate judgement on this case. The quality and quantity of the arguments both written and oral has given me food for thought. I have not made up my mind’.

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