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UK Supreme Court hears attempt to change Northern Ireland abortion law

UK Supreme Court hears attempt to change Northern Ireland abortion law
From Reuters - October 24, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) - An attempt to change the law in Northern Ireland to allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or serious malformation of the fetus started in the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday with harrowing accounts of womens experiences.

A socially conservative province where the Catholic and Protestant faiths exert strong influence, Northern Ireland allows abortion only when a mothers life is in danger. The penalty for undergoing or performing an unlawful abortion is life imprisonment.

As a result, women facing tragic circumstances such as a pregnancy resulting from rape or a diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormality, meaning that a baby will not survive outside the womb, have been forced to carry their pregnancies to term.

The impact of the criminal law in Northern Ireland does amount to inhuman and degrading treatment by the state, said Nathalie Lieven, lead counsel for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which is spearheading the legal action.

The commission, an independent body, launched legal action against Northern Irelands government in 2014, arguing that the law violates the human rights of women and girls. The case has been working its way through the courts ever since.

A panel of seven Supreme Court judges in London will hear arguments for and against the proposed changes during a three-day hearing. They will give their judgment at a later date.

Lieven began by giving the judges an overview of detailed evidence provided by several women and girls.

One of them, Ashleigh Topley, was told when she was four-and-a-half months pregnant in 2013 that her babys limbs were not growing and she was going to die.

Topley was told there was nothing to be done and she had to carry on with the pregnancy until her baby died inside the womb, or until she went into labor which would cause the baby to die.

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