Stella Creasy: House must commit to abortion legal change

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The law on abortion in Northern Ireland explained

She called for the United Kingdom and Irish governments to then come together under a peace process construct called the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to discuss how to change the laws on terminations in Northern Ireland.

The U.K. Supreme Court ruled Thursday it had no right to decide whether Northern Ireland's strict policy limiting abortions breached European human-rights laws, heading off a potential fallout between U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party and her alliance partners.

However, a different four of the seven ruled that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which had initiated legal proceedings to try to liberalize the law, did not have the right to bring the case.

In Northern Ireland, women are only permitted to terminate their pregnancy when their life is in danger or the pregnancy runs a serious risk to their mental or physical health.

"The commission had argued the law criminalizes vulnerable women and girls and subjects them to inhumane and degrading treatment in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights", NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

Ms Creasy wants the Offences against the Persons Act 1861 to be repealed, saying this would remove a block to abortion law reform in Northern Ireland.

The debate on Northern Ireland's restrictions on abortion has intensified after citizens in the Irish Republic voted by a landslide last month to liberalise the state's laws.

However, the fact that the Supreme Court dismissed the case because of doubts about the Human Rights Commission's right to bring it means the judges' views on the anti-abortion laws do not have legal force, which is reassuring for abortion foes. As such, the court does not have jurisdiction to make a declaration of incompatibility in this case.

Responding to the decision, Dawn McAvoy of Both Lives Matter, said: "It is not a moment to celebrate, but rather to pause and be thankful for the lives this judgment will save".

"This is hugely significant and makes clear there is nowhere left for the government to hide on this issue". "A majority of the court does however consider that the current law in Northern Ireland is disproportionate and incompatible with Art 8 ECHR insofar as that law prohibits abortion in cases of (a) fatal foetal abnormality, (b) pregnancy as a result of rape and (c) pregnancy as a result of incest". "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

Abortion laws were relaxed in the rest of the U.K in 1967, but that legislation was never applied in Northern Ireland, which had its own parliament between the partition of Ireland in 1921 and the imposition of direct rule from London 50 years later.

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