Christian charity welcomes ruling on Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.Reuters

The Christian charity CARE has welcomed a legal ruling that Northern Ireland's strict abortion legislation is not incompatible with human rights.

Three judges in the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled it was not up to the courts to decide on abortion law but local government.

The judgement was the result of an appeal brought in response to a 2015 judgement that stated that Northern Ireland's abortion laws were not human rights compliant.

Mark Baillie, policy officer for the Christian charity CARE, said: 'CARE is pleased that all three judges ruled that Northern Ireland's laws on abortion are indeed compatible with human rights.

'CARE also welcomes that The Court of Appeal has strongly indicated that abortion is a matter for the Northern Ireland legislature to decide."

'The judges were very clear that any changes made to the abortion law in Northern Ireland should be made by the elected Assembly and not by the judiciary.

'Our laws on abortion must always be framed in a way that provides the best possible outcome for both the mother and the unborn child. We cannot ignore one to the detriment of the other.

'Northern Ireland's current legislation on abortion provides support for the unborn child; we should not seek to undermine or remove that protection.'

'An abortion is never an easy decision to make. We recognise that there are difficulties women face with pregnancies, especially in cases where the unborn child may be born with a life-limiting disease, but we reject that abortion is the answer.

'CARE advocates strongly therefore for better support services, both physical and psychological, and greater access to them for all mothers in these situations.'

The High Court in 2015 ruled the NI law breached the European Convention on Human Rights by not allowing abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or sexual crime. In Northern Ireland, abortion is only permitted if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Secularists were angered by the ruling.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, said, 'Many today will feel that the court has put politics before human rights, and betrayed women throughout Northern Ireland.

'This was not even a case that would have seen abortion laws in Northern Ireland fully aligned with those in the rest of the UK. It was a case brought simply to uphold the right of women to terminate their pregnancies if they have been raped or if the foetus is found to have a fatal abnormality.

'The court's decision not to defend this right is inhumane, especially knowing - as it does - that the Northern Ireland Assembly is very unlikely to do so. This is deeply disappointing for everyone involved in the pro-choice movement, and we must continue to campaign for the rights of women in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK until they are fully respected.'