Today Mr Justice Horner reached his final conclusion in the judicial review of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.
Reading his final conclusion to the packed courtroom, he acknowledged that to interpret sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the law which specifically protects the child in the womb, to allow for abortion in cases of rape, incest and when the unborn child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, would be ‘a step too far’. Instead, the judge made a ‘declaration of incompatibility’, meaning that the matter of introducing new legislation is now for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide.
Mr Justice Horner’s ruling today does not change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. There is no obligation on the Northern Ireland Assembly to act on this ruling or to legalise abortion in the above cases.
Speaking to the media outside the High Court in Belfast this morning, Bernadette Smyth, the director of Precious Life, the leading pro-life group in Northern Ireland, commented on today’s ruling:
“Firstly I would like to make clear that the law has not changed in Northern Ireland. Unborn children are still protected in Northern Ireland.
“We are relieved that Judge Horner acknowledged that to ‘interpret’ our pro-life laws to allow for the killing of little unborn children diagnosed with life-limiting conditions and unborn children conceived in rape or incest would be a ‘step too far’. We also welcome that he accepted that a so-called ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ is not a medical term or diagnosis. Rather, it is medically meaningless and grossly offensive and hurtful to mothers and their unborn babies.
“Precious Life have launched its FIGHT BACK public awareness campaign to expose the horror of what a change in the law would mean for vulnerable defenceless unborn children in Northern Ireland. We will also be launching a lobby campaign at Stormont to ensure that our politicians continue to respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland who have made clear that abortion will never be in our name.
“Precious Life have been fighting this battle for eighteen years and we will continue our efforts to ensure that the rights of unborn children continue to be upheld in law, policy and practice in Northern Ireland.”