Northern Ireland pro-choice campaign gathers momentum

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Human rights group did not have standing to make appeal, court rules.

A Belfast woman behind the campaign to have Northern Ireland's abortion law changed says she has "no regrets" after The Supreme Court ruling.

The court ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission didn't have the power to bring the case.

Britain's Supreme Court on Thursday criticized Northern Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws but dismissed a legal challenge.

Unlike in mainland Britain, abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, carrying a potential life sentence, except when a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

NIHRC told the court in October that the current law criminalizes women and girls, subjecting them to "inhuman and degrading" treatment.

"We welcome the clear position taken by the Government in respecting the right of the Assembly to legislate on abortion, reflecting the will of the people of Northern Ireland".

Four of the seven justices said the law violated European conventions by not allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest.

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The referendum inspired a similar debate in Northern Ireland with some calling for reform while others like the Democratic Union Party remain opposed to changing the existing law.

The devolved government in the British province is responsible for deciding abortion laws, but Westminster can step in if legislation is deemed to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

"All eyes are now on the UK Government".

The Northern Irish law pertaining to abortion is now the strictest in the United Kingdom and permits abortion only when there is real and substantial risk of loss of the woman's life, including from a risk of suicide, that can only be averted by carrying out an abortion.

"I personally have been doing this for five years, and five years is too long". During an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Stella Creasy put forward a motion which advocated repealing two sections of the Offences Against the Person Act.

Sarah Ewart, a woman who was forced to travel to the United Kingdom for an abortion after being told her baby would not survive, intervened alongside Amnesty in the case.

Ordinarily, this finding would have ended the matter, however the judges recognised the compelling evidence and gave their conclusions regardless - the majority set out in strong language the breaches of human rights they had found, which, they felt, "could not be safely ignored".

"Women have been criminalised when they find themselves in very, very hard circumstances, so we welcome that debate but clearly we need to see legislative change here in the north".

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