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Woman launches court case to liberalise abortion law in NI

March 2019

Abortion activist Sarah Ewart has started a court case to force the liberalisation of the abortion law in Northern Ireland.

She has launched a judicial review of the legislation in Northern Ireland, and the case will be ruled upon by judges in the High Court.

It comes after a previous Supreme Court appeal, led by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), failed last year.

In that case, the judges said Northern Ireland’s ban on abortion was incompatible with human rights laws in the case of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

However, the case failed because the judges said the NIHRC did not have legal standing to bring the legal challenge.

They said the case should have been brought by a woman who was pregnant as a result of sexual crime or who was carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality.

That is why Sarah Ewart is now taking her case to court. In 2013 she travelled to England to have an abortion because she was carrying a baby with an abnormality.

Her case is opposed by the government. In court, the government’s lawyer Tony McGleenan QC warned that liberalising the abortion law through the courts would undermine democracy.

He said, ‘This is not an issue which fits naturally before the High Court. It is an issue which has been before the legislature which debated it in February 2016.

‘The assembly rejected the proposal and mandated a course of action. That appears to be the democratically expressed wish of the assembly which the court will no doubt have regard to’.