Women ‘should not have to leave Northern Ireland for abortion’

Women seeking abortions in Northern Ireland should receive the help they need without leaving the North, a campaigner has said.

Sarah Ewart from Belfast has pursued a long legal battle over her treatment and is back in court in the city.

She travelled to England for a termination after being told her pregnancy had a fatal foetal diagnosis.

The UK Supreme Court ruled last June that abortion laws in Northern Ireland were in breach of human rights legislation but sent Ms Ewart’s case back to the High Court in Belfast on a technicality.

Sarah Ewart right speaks to the media outside the Supreme Court in Westminster last June (PA)

Ms Ewart said: “It is really nerve-wracking but I am really hopeful that the High Court listens to what the Supreme Court has previously said – that women here who find themselves in the circumstances that I found myself in will get the help and the treatment that we need in our hospitals with our own medical teams.

“This is a medical situation that I found myself in; five years down the line I am reliving the stress and the trauma all over again.

“I should not have to be here, sharing my story again, so I am hoping this time will be the final time through the courts, that we will get the help that we need.”

Ms Ewart is being supported by Amnesty International, one of five intervenors in the case.

Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law who represents Sarah Ewart and Amnesty International in the challenge said: “This is one of the most significant cases to come before the Belfast Courts in recent times with regards to human rights compliance in this jurisdiction.

"It is a truly horrifying indictment to the prehistoric laws of this jurisdiction, whereby we continue to force women to travel for the purposes of upholding their human rights."

"It is now time for the courts to intervene one final time to ensure that women such as Sarah Ewart are protected, and their human rights upheld, in declaring that the current laws are incompatible."

In a judgment last June, five of the seven Supreme Court judges ruled that Northern Ireland’s abortion law breached the UK’s human rights obligations.

However, they concluded that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission – which brought the case – did not have the power to bring the proceedings forward as it was not itself a “victim” of any unlawful act.

There are four other intervenors in the case: the Human Rights Commission, Humanists UK, Centre for Reproductive Rights and Precious Life.

- Press Association

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