Northern Ireland

Abortion: Appeal Court urged 'protect women who risk criminalisation'

Lawyers for the Human Rights Commission said the political logjam on abortion was harming women's rights
Image caption Lawyers for the Human Rights Commission said the "political logjam" on abortion is harming women's rights

The Court of Appeal has been urged to step in to protect women who risk criminalisation by trying to access abortions in Northern Ireland.

Lawyers for the Human Rights Commission made their closing arguments in a four-day hearing on Thursday.

They claimed last year's High Court ruling on the matter did not go far enough.

They told the court that the "political logjam" on abortion is harming women's rights.

They also said the judicial system must take action where the politicians had failed to do so.

Cross-appeal

The appeal began on Monday and is being taken by the Department of Justice and Attorney General John Larkin QC, with the Human Rights Commission launching a cross-appeal in an unusual move.

In December, a judge ruled the law did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or sexual crime.

However, the justice department believes that ruling could lead to a widening of the abortion law.

On Thursday, their counsel told the court that it was a matter for politicians if it was found that women's rights had been breached.

The attorney general questioned the basis of the Human Rights Commission's right to launch proceedings, arguing that no unlawful act had been committed.

The current abortion legislation differs from the rest of the UK, as the Abortion Act 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland.

A termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk, or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Judgement has been reserved until after the summer recess.

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