Rights group challenges Northern Ireland abortion law News
Rights group challenges Northern Ireland abortion law

[JURIST] The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) [advocacy website] announced Wednesday that it plans to file a lawsuit [press release] challenging the law against abortions. Ireland’s abortion law currently allows abortion only when a woman’s physical or mental health is threatened, but NIHRC asserts that the current law is a violation of human rights, as the legislation allows for criminal penalties for women who undergo unlawful abortions or for doctors and hospitals that perform them. The NIHRC decided to bring the lawsuit in order to change Ireland’s law “so that women and girls in Northern Ireland have the choice of accessing a termination of pregnancy in circumstances of serious malformation of the fetus, rape or incest.”

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. Northern Ireland’s abortion law differs from the rest of the UK, and this lawsuit has been long-awaited by international rights groups. In October Ireland’s Department of Justice announced [BBC report] that it would consult with the public in regards to changing the law, but the NIHRC did not believe that this effort was acted upon in a timely manner. In 2010 Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] criticized [JURIST report] the abortion laws, stating that they create a heavy financial and emotional burden on women who are forced to find alternatives either secretly or abroad.