After Ireland’s abortion referendum, Northern Ireland faces pressure to legalize abortion

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Abortion is legal through 28 weeks in the United Kingdom under the 1967 Abortion Act, but the law does not extend to Northern Ireland. Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland only for cases in which the mother’s life is in danger; however, abortion is never actually necessary to save the life of the mother. Abortion activists in Northern Ireland are pushing to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, and instances in which the baby is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition. But this week, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom dismissed a challenge to the abortion ban in Northern Ireland brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The court ruled that this group did not have the standing to bring the challenge.

The recent court case comes just weeks after Ireland voted in a referendum to legalize abortion by repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Following Ireland’s vote, abortion activists have put increased pressure on the UK to change Northern Ireland’s law.

This strategy to push for abortion in these “exceptions” cases, which the abortion lobby has used before, ignores the right to life of the baby and treats the baby’s death as a solution to tragic circumstances. Legalizing the killing of any preborn baby leaves no legal protection for any human life in the womb.

Although the court’s rejection of the challenge is good insofar as the law in Northern Ireland continues to recognize the right to life of the preborn, the court also signaled that the law should change. Supreme Court Judge Lord Kerr stated that a majority of the judges found Northern Ireland’s abortion ban incompatible with human rights law. This opinion of the highest court in the UK is ironic, given that abortion, the violent killing of innocent and defenseless human life, is one of the greatest atrocities against human rights of our time.

Because the challenge was dismissed, the court’s finding of incompatibility does not compel the country to remove protections of the preborn. Any revision to the current abortion ban in Northern Ireland is complicated by the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended for more than a year due to a political rift.

Dawn McAvoy, representing Both Lives Matter, a pro-life group in the country, reacted to the news, saying, “The court did not find a human right to end a human life.” This is the essence of the pro-life position and the reason pro-life advocates continue to uphold the current law of Northern Ireland.

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