High Court in Belfast rules Northern Ireland breaches human rights by protecting unborn babies

By Dave Andrusko

Sarah Ewart, second from left, and Grainne Taggart of Amnesty International, who have been pushing the case.

Alas, you could see this one coming. “The High Court in Northern Ireland ruled Thursday that its abortion legislation breaches the United Kingdom’s human rights commitments,” CBS News reported. Sarah Ewart’s challenge was heard by Justice Keegan.

In 2013, Ewart, a woman from Northern Ireland, “travelled to England for an abortion after she was told that her baby would die before or shortly after birth,” the Society for the Protection of Unborn Life (SPUC) said today.

“This judgement effectively says that severely disabled children, with life-limiting conditions, have no right to exist,” Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland political officer, explains. “They can be deprived of the most fundamental human right by having their lives taken from them. This is not justice, this is eugenics.”

In its analysis SPUC noted that Mrs. Justice Keegan

followed the opinion of four justices of the Supreme Court in London, who said last year that Northern Ireland’s ban on most abortions was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights, (the right to respect for private and family life), in prohibiting abortion in cases of rape and incest and “fatal foetal abnormality”.

The 2018 case was dismissed, but just barely (4-3). Justices at the UK’s Highest Court said they had no jurisdiction to consider the latest case because there was no actual or potential victim of an unlawful act involved in it.

But, as SPUC noted in June 2018, “four of the seven justices expressed their opinion that the law was incompatible with Article 8 of the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights], the right to respect for private and family life, in prohibiting abortion in cases of rape and incest and ‘fatal foetal abnormality.’”

The situation is made infinitely more complicated because the two main political parties in Northern Ireland have been unable to come to agreement to form a power-sharing government that is provided for under the 1998 ‘devolution’ agreement with the UK Parliament. Devolution allows the Assembly and Executive Committee to make laws and decisions affecting Northern Ireland,” as the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues explained.

SPUC noted, “Although the judge found in favour of Mrs. Ewart, she did not make a formal declaration that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are incompatible with human rights. This is because of impending legislation, already passed at Westminster, which will decriminalise abortion if there is no deal to restore devolution in Northern Ireland by 21 October.”

Commenting further on Justice Keegan’s judgement, Mr. Gibson said: “Any claim that by providing legal protection for children before birth the law in Northern Ireland violates human rights obligations turns justice on its head. Not one of the nine core UN human rights treaties even mentions abortion.”

“Yet, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the seminal document of the human rights project, recognises that ‘the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth’.

“No court, no parliament and no government has the legitimate authority to brand any section of the human family as non-persons so they can be killed. This judgement is wrong and eventually it will be overturned.”

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