- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2018

Britain’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an effort to strike down Northern Ireland’s strict laws on abortion, saying the human rights group behind the challenge lacked the standing to bring the suit.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) argued that statutes criminalizing abortion were in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights. The current abortion laws, the most restrictive in the U.K., subject women to “inhumane and degrading treatment” and violate privacy rights in the European Union charter.

The court ruling, which comes on the heels of a hotly contested referendum in the Republic of Ireland in which voters overwhelmingly voted to end a near-total ban on abortion in the Irish constitution, means any further efforts to change Northern Ireland’s abortion laws will have to go through the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast.

Some 66 percent of Irish voters approved an easing of the country’s abortion restrictions in the vote last month.

While ruling against the NIHRC’s appeal for lack of standing, several members of the U.K. Supreme Court said the Northern Irish abortion restrictions did appear to conflict with European human rights guarantees. Lord Jonathan Hugh Mance, the deputy president of the court, said that “the present law clearly needs radical reconsideration.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces pressure to authorize a referendum on the Northern Irish abortion laws in the wake of the Republic of Ireland vote. But Mrs. May’s minority government is dependent on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, which strongly backs the current restrictions.

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