NI court case threatens disabled right to life

A legal case seeking to weaken abortion law in Northern Ireland would lead to disabled unborn children having no rights, Belfast High Court has heard.

Judge Mark Horner reserved judgment in the contentious case, which is being brought by a taxpayer-funded human rights quango.

Currently abortion in Northern Ireland is illegal except to save the life of the mother.

Right to life

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) is arguing for abortion to be extended to cases of “serious malformation of the foetus, rape or incest”.

Attorney General John Larkin QC told the court: “The Human Rights Commission want to take away the right to life of disabled unborn children.”

Brett Lockhart QC, representing Roman Catholic bishops’ concerns, warned that a change in the law could “open the floodgates for every type of disability” and said that abortion is not the answer.

No immediate judgment

The Department of Justice recently carried out a consultation on weakening the abortion law, but argued against the NIHRC in court.

At the end of the hearing Mr Justice Mark Horner said: “It will come as no surprise that I will not be making an immediate judgment on this case.

“The quality and quantity of the arguments both written and oral has given me food for thought. I have not made up my mind.”

‘Substantial support’

The Department of Justice consultation on abortion, which ran from October 2014 to January 2015, attracted over 25,000 responses.

Fewer than 1 per cent of responses were in favour, but a press release from the department claimed there was a “substantial body of support” for the changes.

The Christian Institute has highlighted numerous stories of people affected by abortion in its moving Choose Life series.

Choose Life

Melanie and Damien Sheenan refused an abortion after doctors made what was later shown to be an incorrect diagnosis of a serious life-limiting condition.

Bonnie and Phil Walker chose life for their daughter Grace, who was diagnosed with a serious life-limiting condition but lived for a “precious” 15 minutes.

Watch and read about more stories from our Choose Life series.

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