Belfast High court rules abortion ban in "breach of human rights" but Fight For Free, Safe and Legal Continues


The High Court in Belfast ruled in December that the North's abortion laws are in "breach of human rights".

Last July the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission launched a legal challenge to the abortion law calling for abortion to be legalised in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities. The abortion laws that govern the North date back to 1861 - before women could even vote - and only allow abortion when the life of the mother is at risk.

Today's ruling was in favour of legalizing abortion in the instances which the Human Rights Commission outlined; rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities. It is now up to the Department of Justice to implement the ruling.

This is a positive step in the journey for abortion rights but more work remains to be done.

You might oftentimes hear someone say that "abortion should only be allowed when the woman has been raped" or "I don't think abortion should be allowed in all situations." This is called the Good Abortion Bad Abortion Narrative, this narrative plays into the idea that there are some women and other pregnant people who are "deserving" of an abortion and others who aren't.

Using the logic of the narrative, "Good Abortions" occur within situations such as rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities. So in the cases of rape and incest, because you didn't choose to have sex you shouldn't have to be put through a pregnancy. In the case of fatal foetal abnormalities, your child won't survive therefore you should be allowed an abortion.

"Bad Abortions" are situations in which someone has become pregnant and does not want a child for no reason other than that.Perhaps you're too poor to raise a child, or too young, or ill, or you don't want your child to experience the same oppression you have, or most importantly, maybe you are simply pregnant and do not wish to be. The logic is you chose to have sex therefore you must deal with the consequences.

All reasons listed above are all valid reasons to have an abortion although no one should ever be asked why they have chosen an abortion for themselves, it is their bodies and their lives that they are making decisions over, no one else's.

This ruling has the very real potential for the fight to be relaxed now that the law has been relaxed. This will leave women and other pregnant people behind who want an abortion simply because they do not wish to be pregnant. Either all women's choices over their bodies and destinies are respected or none are.

We either throw those who were "too careless" or "too promiscuous" - as the Good Abortion Bad Abortion Narrative puts it - under the bus or we continue the fight. We acknowledge the success, but it's back to business so that no one is left behind.

We need to remember that there is still a woman awaiting trial in the North for supplying her daughter with Abortion Pills - medicine that is on the World Health Organisation's essential medicines list. This woman is still a criminal in the eyes of the law; as are the many women and other pregnant people who have taken this medicine as well as the many activists who provide the pills.

Anything short of Free, Safe and Legal abortion on demand, as early as possible and as late as necessary on the whole Island of Ireland is simply not enough. Women are not incubators, just because you fall pregnant doesn't mean you have to stay pregnant. Pregnancy should never be a punishment for sex and every child should be wanted.

Congratulations to those who worked so hard on today's ruling, it is a step in the right direction.

The fight continues to demand Free, Safe and Legal Abortion on Demand.

Words: Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird