Northern Ireland’s High Court Rules Abortion a Human Right

News: World News
by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  •  October 4, 2019   

Baby Ella's termination, the catalyst for the ruling

You are not signed in as a Premium user; we rely on Premium users to support our news reporting. Sign in or Sign up today!

BELFAST, Northern Ireland ( - Northern Ireland's High Court of Justice ruled Thursday that the region's current law that prohibits abortion in most cases is a human rights violation.

In 2013, Sarah Ewart sought to abort her child, Ella, after doctors told her the child would not survive outside the womb.

Ewart went to London to terminate her child after she was denied an abortion in Northern Ireland, since Northern Irish law only permits abortion for the life of the mother or to prevent permanent physical or mental damage.

It's six years ago on Monday we lost our little girl, Ella.

Ewart joined her abortion story to the latest legal challenge after the court rejected previous cases based on a technicality, namely, that the plaintiff would need to be a woman wanting an abortion due to fatal fetal abnormality or rape.

"Today's ruling is a turning point for women in their campaign against the outdated laws prohibiting against abortion in Northern Ireland," said Ewart after the ruling.

"It should never have had to come to this. Today's ruling is a vindication of all those women who have fought tirelessly to ensure that we never again have to go through what I did in 2013," she added.

Outside the courthouse after the ruling, Ewart elaborated:

It's a massive victory. I mean, six years is a long time. It's six years ago on Monday we lost [from the abortion] our little girl, Ella. I feel like I've done a full circle and I'm back round to the beginning again, only we're getting an end and we're going to get the medical care here that I and other women deserve.

I did it for myself and all the other women and people who are going to be affected by this. By no means am I saying that everybody that finds themselves in this position has to go through a medical procedure [abortion], but what I'm saying is the people that don't want to continue with the pregnancy need to have that option there.

It's a very difficult thing. It's not something we just wake up and want. This was a very much wanted pregnancy and a very difficult decision to make.

Bernie Smyth, director of the pro-life organization Precious Life, was also outside the courthouse with members of her organization.

After the ruling, Smyth said:

Well, I think it's a very sad day for the people of Northern Ireland. It's a very sad day for the future unborn children with special needs when a court would make a decision to deny the very personhood and deny the right to life of unborn children here in Northern Ireland.

It's a very sad day for the future unborn children with special needs.
Grainne Teggart

Justice Dame Siobhan Roisin Keegan, a judge of the High Court of Justice, said:

Sarah Ewart has been affected by the current law in that she has had to travel to seek an abortion in desperate circumstances. In addition, she runs the risk of being directly affected again by the current legal impositions given that she is at risk of a baby having a fatal foetal abnormality.

She has had to modify her behavior in that she could not have medical treatment in Northern Ireland due to the risk of criminal prosecution.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: "This groundbreaking ruling is a huge win for abortion rights in Northern Ireland. The court has spoken ― the law is a clear violation of rights. Thursday's ruling shows just how urgently change is needed so this healthcare can be accessed without having to travel."

According to an article from The Hill, this court ruling offers the possibility for the High Court of Justice to force lawmakers to change Northern Ireland's current abortion law.

--- Campaign 31544 ---


Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.

We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines