Northern Ireland

Abortion: Who is NI law challenger Sarah Ewart?

Sarah Ewart arriving at Belfast High Court court on Thursday Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Sarah Ewart says the High Court ruling is a "massive victory"

Sarah Ewart does not view herself as an abortion activist.

Instead she describes herself as someone with a "personal and emotional experience" and a "voice that spoke out".

The Belfast woman was denied an abortion in Northern Ireland in 2013 in spite of doctors saying her baby would not survive outside the womb.

On Thursday morning, her voice was heard by a judge at Belfast's High Court who ruled that Northern Ireland's abortion law breaches the UK's human rights commitments.

Mrs Ewart has been the face of the long-running and high-profile campaign to have that abortion law changed.

'Difficult personal journey'

"Because I was a voice that spoke out I've become known as a campaigner - I do not think I'm a campaigner," she says.

"It's actually six years ago next Monday that we lost our daughter Ella and this nightmare began.

"It's a very personal, difficult and exhausting journey for me and my family."

Ella was a planned baby - Mrs Ewart and her husband had married earlier in 2013 and were "so excited" about the pregnancy, she explains.

Image caption Sarah Ewart was supported in court by her lawyer Darragh Mackin, Amnesty International's Grainne Teggart and Mrs Ewart's mother Jane Christie

But that excitement turned to devastation after a 20-week scan revealed her baby had anencephaly, a rare condition that prevents part of the brain and skull from developing.

As there was no risk to her own life, Mrs Ewart was told she would have to continue with the pregnancy until miscarriage.

"The baby wasn't going to survive - the minute the umbilical cord was cut, the baby would have passed away.

"When I realised that I felt I couldn't continue on for nine months with people asking me when I was due and about my pregnancy to not have a baby at the end of it.

"I felt I couldn't go through with it."

'We'll never have closure'

She told doctors that she and her husband wanted a termination.

She said: "We were shocked. They said: 'Sorry, with the law here we can't help you - you would have to go across the water.'"

At 21 weeks pregnant, Mrs Ewart travelled to London to have her abortion, which she described as an "awful experience".

"I should have been at home with my family and friends around me, supporting me.

"I don't think I'll ever have closure - we unfortunately have no remains of our baby daughter, no grave to visit, and that's something I'll never get back.

"If the law changes I think I'll be more comforted that I'll know that any women coming along behind me will get the medical treatment we deserve."

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