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Northern Ireland's government appeals over abortion law breach

The Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast Ardfern/CC/Wikimedia

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland has set a date for a case against a decision made by the High Court in Belfast that Northern Ireland’s abortion law breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case is being brought by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Attorney General, and will be heard during a four day hearing on 20 June.

Although the Northern Ireland legislator was told in December that Northern Ireland’s law on abortion is in breach of European Convention, the Assembly did not vote to correct that breach on Wednesday.

Patrick Corrigan, the Northern Ireland Programme Director for Amnesty International, was in court this morning to hear the date of the appeal.

"The Assembly’s decision is a betrayal of women and girls in Northern Ireland," said Corrigan. "We will be working to bring about the change, either by the Assembly in a future vote, or via the courts."

The Methodist Church in Ireland was one of the parties consulted by The Department of Justice ahead of the Assembly’s vote on Wednesday. In consultation with the Justice Minister, the Methodist Church in Ireland said that it did not support abortion in cases of rape and incest, but that it did support the amendment for abortion in certain cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

The Reverend Dr David Clements, convenor of the council for social justice issues for the Methodist Church in Ireland, accused the politicians of "political football" ahead of the spring elections: "The political parties are kind of playing football with this. It’s clouding what the actual issues are. And I felt that David Ford, the Minister for Justice, made an honest and decent effort to consult widely and properly."

But Mara Clarke, from the Abortion Support Network, said that even if the amendments proposed are passed at a future date, they don’t go far enough.

She said: "This is a very small percentage of the people who need abortions, which means women are still going to be faced with the fact that those who have £400 to £2,000 to travel can, and those who can’t either have to continue unwanted pregnancies or, in our experience, take desperate, dangerous action to self-terminate."

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