The Supreme Court has ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission does not have standing to challenge Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.
Former barrister Peter Lynas, NI director of Evangelical Alliance, commented:
“This is a welcome judgment. It is obviously not a cause for celebration, but rather a moment to pause and be thankful for the lives this judgment will save.
“We acknowledge that this is a technical victory; however, it is important to note that the Supreme Court has dismissed the case brought by the Human Rights Commission. In doing so, it has made clear that there is no human right to abortion. All seven judges have also made clear that they would not have allowed abortion on the grounds of a serious malformation of the unborn child.
“The case also draws a clear boundary in the abortion discussion. From a human rights perspective, the only discussion is about life-limiting conditions and sexual crime. Changes beyond that, such as decriminalisation, have nothing to do with human rights.
“This is a complex ruling and the Court has split on a number of the issues raised. The Supreme Court has, by a majority decision, accepted the Attorney General’s argument that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission does not have standing to bring this case. In simple terms, the Commission has lost.
“However, the Court has indicated how it would have decided the case if the Commission had standing. This is unusual, and while the comments of the judges was that they would allow abortion in very limited circumstances, they are non-binding.
“We know that there are more than 100,000 people alive in Northern Ireland today because we did not bring in the 1967 Abortion Act. We now need to discuss how to provide better support for women in these very difficult situations rather than liberalising abortion laws. We believe that the compassionate and just response to this situation is to advocate the life and dignity of both lives, woman and child.
“This ruling makes clear that there is no legal requirement for a law change in Northern Ireland. The Court did not find a human right to end a human life. The issue of decriminalisation, which some at Westminster have been pushing for, is an entirely separate matter and there is nothing in the ruling to support it.
“The 2 per cent of hard cases are often used to change the law relating to the other 98 per cent of abortions carried out on healthy unborn children. We remind politicians that the sensitive subject of abortion is a devolved matter. On 10 February 2016, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against legalising abortion in cases of life limiting conditions (sometimes called fatal foetal abnormality), or cases of rape, incest or indecent assault. The Assembly has spoken and the decision of the Court today does not change that.”