"The UK Government can be in no doubt that it must act now to enforce its citizens’ human rights."
Published on 7 June 2018
A majority of Supreme Court judges today concluded that the existing abortion restrictions breached the human rights of women in Northern Ireland.
While the appeal could not be granted because of a technicality, the judges made clear that the current ban on abortion even in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This follows the warning of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women that the rules are at odds with human rights.
Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision has confirmed that women’s human rights are being systematically violated by the archaic and abhorrent abortion laws in Northern Ireland.
“A majority of Supreme Court judges has joined the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in concluding that the existing rules breach women’s human rights.
“Although the Supreme Court was unable to grant the appeal, its expressed opinion means the UK Government can be in no doubt that it must act now to enforce its citizens’ human rights.
“Human rights are not devolved and there is a moral imperative for Westminster to stop these abuses. But instead of fulfilling her government’s duty as a signatory to the UN’s international bill of rights for women, Theresa May talks about the importance of devolution and has back-room meetings to trade women's rights for Brexit votes.
"While today’s case showed that the ban on abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality is illegal, the UK Government should go further and actively assert women’s right to control their own bodies.
“Abortion is a medical issue, not something that should be in the domain of the criminal justice system as it is across the UK at present. Women will never have equality until they have control over their bodies, so WE will never stop fighting until abortion is decriminalised.”
The Women’s Equality Party will continue to work to ensure that women in Northern Ireland can access the same abortion rights as women in the rest of the UK. WE will also continue our Time It’s Not a Crime campaign calling for decriminalisation of abortion so that women do not face the threat of prison, and WE repeat our call for Jeremy Hunt to allow English women home use of the abortion pill as already approved by Scotland and Wales.