UK's highest court to rule on legality of Northern Ireland's abortion law


The House of Commons will discuss the repeal of elements of an 1861 law that makes abortion illegal, but from which England, Wales and Scotland have always been exempt.

The ruling comes just weeks after the Republic of Ireland voted decisively in a referendum to reform the country's strict abortion laws, which had effectively banned all terminations.

Wednesday's figures from the Department of Health in England and Wales show that 4,809 abortions for non-residents were carried out in England and Wales, a similar level to 2016.

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More than 900 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England for an abortion previous year, according to UK Department of Health figures.

Message from the House of Commons: "if you don't, we will. #trustwomen".

She added, "That is why the government, like its predecessors, believes that the best forum to debate and resolve these and many other matters is a locally elected Northern Ireland assembly, so the government's priority remains to urgently re-establish strong, inclusive, devolved government at the earliest opportunity".

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Britain's Northern Ireland minister has said she would like the law to be changed, but it was up to the people of Northern Ireland. On the other hand, Maria Caulfield, a fellow Conservative MP, argued proponents of parliament-imposed reform were sending the message "that the women in Westminster know best". Nevertheless, she argued repeal would still allow Northern Irish legislators to fix limitations on abortion.

An emergency debate on Northern Ireland's abortion laws was granted by the Speaker after the Republic of Ireland's referendum decision to liberalise its own laws left Northern Ireland as the only part of the United Kingdom where abortion remains illegal.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. May believes the matter should be left to the Northern Irish government; moreover, she can not risk alienating MPs from the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), upon whom her government relies for votes. They want MPs to attend the debate and stress that the democratic process in Northern Ireland be respected.

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The legislature, he said, "has struck the proportionate balance required for the protection of the rights of women and unborn children".