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Northern Ireland Assembly rejects proposed abortion law amendments

[JURIST] The Northern Ireland Assembly [official website] rejected proposed amendments to the region's strict abortion laws on Wednesday. The Assembly voted against a proposed amendment [text, PDF] to the Justice Bill [text] that would allow terminations in cases of sexual crime, fatal fetal abnormality or incest. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission [advocacy website] decried Wednesday's vote as an infringement on human rights [press release] and a violation of a December ruling from the High Court in Belfast which found [JURIST report] that Northern Ireland's abortion laws are not compatible with human rights laws. Currently, women in Northern Ireland must travel to other parts of the UK [Belfast Telegraph report] to seek an abortion when diagnosed with a fetal abnormality. The current law in Northern Ireland strictly bans abortion unless it is required in order to save a woman's life or a serious risk is posed.

Abortion [JURIST backgrounder] remains a controversial topic in both Northern Ireland and the neighboring state of Ireland. In June Amnesty International said Ireland's abortion laws threaten the lives [JURIST report] of women who choose to remain in the country. In December 2014 the High Court of Ireland ruled [JURIST report] that a doctor could switch off the life support of a brain dead woman who was 18 weeks pregnant. Northern Ireland's current abortion law was proposed shortly after the 2013 death of Savita Halappanavar [BBC report], a 31-year-old dentist who was denied a potentially life saving abortion. Following her death, Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore [official website] pledged [JURIST report] to bring "legal clarity" to the country's abortion laws.

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