LONDON (Reuters) – An attempt to change the law in Northern Ireland to allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or serious malformation of the fetus started in the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday with harrowing accounts of women’s experiences.
A socially conservative province where the Catholic and Protestant faiths exert strong influence, Northern Ireland allows abortion only when a mother’s life is in danger. The penalty for undergoing or performing an unlawful abortion is life imprisonment.
As a result, women facing tragic circumstances such as a pregnancy resulting from rape or a diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormality, meaning that a baby will not survive outside the womb, have been forced to carry their pregnancies to term.
“The impact of the criminal law in Northern Ireland does amount to inhuman and degrading treatment by the state,” said Nathalie Lieven, lead counsel for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which is spearheading the legal action.