Friday 18 October 2019

Court rules against ban on abortion in Northern Ireland

‘Massive stress’: Sarah Ewart had to travel to London for an abortion. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
‘Massive stress’: Sarah Ewart had to travel to London for an abortion. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Michael McHugh

Northern Ireland's strict abortion law breaches the UK's human rights commitments, the High Court in Belfast has ruled.

Sarah Ewart (29) hailed a "massive victory" following a six-year legal battle since she was refused a termination in the North in 2013.

She travelled to a London clinic to end her pregnancy after doctors said her unborn child would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

Ms Ewart said: "Today's ruling is a turning point for women in their campaign against the outdated laws prohibiting abortion in Northern Ireland.

"It should never have 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 said the case had been "a massive stress emotionally on all the family".

Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan said her testimony had been compelling.

She decided it was not right that another young woman would be required to pursue litigation and face the same "trauma and pain" in the future.

She said: "I cannot see that this would serve any benefit or it would be right to ask another woman to re-live the trauma. In my view her personal testimony is compelling."

The judge said a formal declaration of incompatibility would not be made at this stage.

Abortion is likely to be legalised in Northern Ireland next year unless Stormont's Assembly is restored within weeks.

MPs at Westminster voted for the measure earlier this year.

The devolved institutions at Stormont have been suspended for two-and-a-half years, contributing to inaction over the matter.

Ms Ewart's child was diagnosed with a fatal feotal abnormality; her brain was not properly developed.

The young mother was told she could not have a termination in Northern Ireland and was given no advice about where to find one.

Irish Independent

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