A Belfast High Court ruling is expected to ease Northern Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws to make it easier for women to terminate pregnancies in some cases.
Judge Mark Horner said Monday that certain abortion prohibitions violate the rights of women. He said this applies in cases where a fetus has fatal abnormalities or when a woman became pregnant as a result of sexual crimes like rape and incest.
Abortions are illegal in Northern Ireland except in extreme cases when a woman's life is deemed at risk from her pregnancy.
John Larkin, attorney general for Northern Ireland, said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the court's ruling and said he is studying grounds for a possible appeal.
Judge Horner said the present law making it illegal for a mother carrying a fetus with a fatal abnormity to terminate her pregnancy constitutes a “gross interference with her personal autonomy.”
He said in such cases “there is no life to protect” because the fetus cannot survive independently once it leaves the womb.
Horner also said the existing law is unfair to victims of sexual crimes who become pregnant.
“She has to face all the dangers and problems, emotional or otherwise, of carrying a fetus for which she bears no moral responsibility and is merely a receptacle to carry the child of a rapist and/or a person who has committed incest, or both,” he said.
The legal challenge had been brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
“Today's result is historic, and will be welcomed by many of the vulnerable women and girls who have been faced with these situations,” said Les Allamby, the group's commissioner.