The High Court in Belfast held Thursday that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws violate European Convention on Human Rights Article 8, which protects the right to respect for private and family life.
The High Court’s decision follows a UK Supreme Court (UKSC) ruling from 2018, which found Northern Ireland’s abortion laws to be too strict.
Mrs Justice Keegan said she intended to follow the ruling of the UKSC that the law in Northern Ireland is incompatible with human rights in cases of [Fatal Foetal Abnormality]. She declined to follow a course which involved her effectively reopening the arguments already made and decided in relation to Article 8 incompatibility by the UKSC. The judge commented that the decision on substantive compatibility issues was intended by the UKSC to have persuasive force and that any matters of contention in respect of that decision should be corrected by the UKSC itself or by the European Court of Human Rights.
Following the 2018 decision by the UKSC, Sarah Ewart brought this current case against the Northern Ireland departments for Health and Justice for failing to adjust their procedures. Because of the departments’ inaction, Ewart was forced to travel to London in order to get an abortion when doctors determined her baby would not survive outside the womb.
Keegan determined that Ewart had standing and thus issued a declaration of incompatibility pursuant to section 4 of the HRA.