Press Release

Decision of Supreme Court to dismiss abortion case marred by judicial activism

7 June 2018         Issued by: Christian Concern

The Supreme Court has today rejected the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s appeal over the legality of the abortion law in Northern Ireland.

However, a narrow majority of judges said that the current law breaches article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which expresses the right of an individual to have their private and family life respected.

Responding to the Supreme Court judgment, Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern commented:

“I welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the appeal.

“Pro-abortion campaigners are already jumping on the fact that a narrow majority of judges have suggested that the law in Northern Ireland breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. But as Lord Kerr himself said, ‘These findings do not represent a binding decision of the court…the essential decision of the court…is that the appeal is dismissed and no formal declaration of incompatibility has been made.’

“It would therefore be deeply disingenuous for pro-abortion campaigners to suggest that there is any legal requirement to change the law in Northern Ireland.

“However, in the majority remarks, claiming that Northern Ireland’s abortion law breaches article 8, the judges are engaging in inappropriate judicial activism.

“In making their claim, the judges frequently refer to A., B., and C. v. Ireland as a basis for their findings but ignore paragraph 214 of the majority opinion which states that article 8 cannot be interpreted as conferring a right to access abortion.

“Nor do they cite D. v. Ireland, where the European Court rejected an application claiming a right to access abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality…a decision which runs completely contrary to the Supreme Court’s findings.

“No binding UN treaty has ever suggested that there is an international right to access abortion. That language simply doesn’t exist.

“Treaty monitoring bodies, like the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, have no authority, either under the treaties that created them or under general international law, to interpret these treaties to include a right to access abortion. It is disingenuous and dangerous therefore for campaigners to cite a UN committee, speaking beyond its competency, as grounds for changing the abortion law in Northern Ireland.”

Notes for editors

The judgments relating to the case can be found on the Supreme Court website:

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