A hearing began Tuesday for a Northern Ireland woman seeking judicial review of the criminal charges leveled against her for supplying abortion pills to her daughter in violation of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.
The woman, proceeding under the name JR76, is the first to present a legal challenge to criminal prosecution resulting from violation of Northern Ireland’s abortion law, arguing that the criminal charges against her violates her human rights. In Northern Ireland, an abortion is illegal unless a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health or there is a substantial risk that the child would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
If convicted, she will face up to five years in prison.
Amnesty International, an intervenor in the case, says Ireland’s has one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws.
In June the UK Supreme Court indicated disapproval of Northern Ireland’s strict abortion law, finding the law “disproportionate and incompatible” with human rights legislation; however, it ultimately dismissed the appeal brought by challengers of the legislation. In April the Belfast City Council voted to decriminalize abortion resulting in a proposed motion advocating for abortion to be regulated like any other medical care and not by criminal law. In 2015 a judge for the High Court in Belfast ruled that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were incompatible with human rights laws.