Human rights Commission considers intervention in legal challenge by pro-life group on abortion laws

The Human Rights Commission is considering intervening in a legal challenge by pro-life campaigners against the Secretary of State’s new powers over abortion in NI.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 4:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 5:13 pm

Earlier today the High Court gave pro-life campaigners permission to challenge the Secretary of State’s new powers over abortion provision in NI.

Although Westminster relaxed NI’s strict abortion laws in 2019 there has been little expansion of staff and resources to bring services up to the comparative capacity as GB. As a result many women are still travelling to England for abortions.

Mr Justice Colton ruled today that SPUC had made an arguable case that Brandon Lewis’ new powers undermine devolution, and said a full hearing will take place at the end of this month.

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Chief Commissioner Les Allamby is leading a legal challenge to secure provision of full abortion services in NI. But now his commission is also considering intervening in a legal challenge by a pro-life group.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is currently taking its own legal challenge against Mr Lewis and Stormont deparments, claiming they are failing in their responsibilities to bring NI abortion services up to GB standards.

Mr Lewis has said he will use his new powers if Stormont does commission full abortion services for NI July.

Outside court today SPUC’s Northern Ireland Political Officer, Liam Gibson, welcomed the High Court’s decision to allow its case to advance.

“If this power grab by the Westminster Government is allowed to stand it will condemn to death an untold number of unborn babies and also fatally undermine the devolution settlement,” he said.

“The UK Government has imposed the most draconian and radical abortion laws on us which would never have secured a majority in the Stormont Assembly.

“London is stripping locally elected Ministers of power and denying the people an accountable government with a democratic mandate.”

However, reacting to the news, a spokeswoman for the Commission told the News Letter it was now considering intervening.

She said: “We note the case has been given leave today and the date for a substantive hearing is listed for 29 June 2021. The Commission will now actively and carefully consider whether or not to intervene in this case given the breadth of the legal issues canvassed within the challenge.”

But Mr Gibson responded that the record of the Human Rights Commission on abortion in Northern Ireland shows that “this quango is not fit for purpose”.

He added: “The most fundamental human right is the right to life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises that that right applies to children before as well as after birth but the NIHRC is more concerned with promoting the interests of the abortion industry than protecting the human rights of children.”

The NI Human Rights Commission has said previously that the unborn child/foetus now has no human rights in NI under the European Comvention on Human Rights (ECHR).

It said the High Court addressed the issue in 2015, where the judge held that “the foetus does not have a right to life under Article 2 (right to life) in Northern Ireland”.

But Liam Gibson said the ECHR allows individual states to decide their own abortion laws and government is therefore “refusing to defend the right to life”, which he said was repealed in 2019 and 2020 by new laws.

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