Belfast court finds Northern Ireland abortion law "incompatible" with human rights

Northern Ireland justice minister wants to change the law

Northern Ireland, abortion, human rights, law, Stormont, Belfast High Court

A general view of Belfast High Court | Image: Paul Faith / PA Archive/PA Images

The Justice Minister in Northern Ireland says he hopes to legislate on abortion for fatal foetal abnormality.

David Ford has told the BBC he will seek the agreement of the Stormont Executive, after the High Court in Belfast ruled the strict abortion laws there are incompatible with human rights legislation.

Here the Taoiseach Enda Kenny has committed to a discussion on the issue after the next election such as a Constitutional Convention.

Mr Kenny confirmed in the Dáil today that Fine Gael TDs would have a free vote if there is a decision to go to a referendum on repealing the 8th amendment.

"If out of that process, taking into account a comprehensive and sensitive analysis, there is a set of options to be considered - if it comes to this House here, the members of this party will have a free vote on that" he said.

"Everybody understands that the 8th amendment was put into the Constitution by the people, and can only be changed or amended by the people", he added.

Incompatible with rights law

The current law on abortion in Northern Ireland was declared "incompatible" with human rights law by Mr Justice Horner in the High Court earlier.

It means it is now up to the politicians at Stormont to change the law in the North - but they are not legally binded to do so.

As it stands, terminations are not allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and when a woman has been a victim of sexual crime.

The issue will be debated in Stormont tomorrow.

From now, there is six-week deadline in which to lodge an appeal.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Chief Les Allamby said: "We welcome the courts decision today to grant a declaration of incompatibility, confirming that the existing termination of pregnancy laws are contrary to human rights".

"It now falls to the department and the Northern Ireland Executive to bring forward legislation to reflect the judgment of the court".

"The commission will await to see how the department and the executive will take this forward or if any appeals will be lodged" he added.

The commission won a judicial review of the North's termination and pregnancy laws on November 30th.

Last month, the same judge found Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right of women to family and private life - was breached by the general prohibition of abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and pregnancies as a consequence of sexual crimes.