Promoting Justice /
Protecting Rights

S439 to the Department of Justice in response to their consultation on the Criminal Law on Abortion: Lethal Foetal Abnormality and Sexual Crime


In July 2013 CAJ responded to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) consultation ‘Guidance on the Termination of Pregnancy: The Law and Clinical Practice in Northern Ireland.’ In this response we reiterated it is now well established that there is a requirement of legal certainty in relation to abortion law and policy in Northern Ireland. This has been established under human rights law in relation to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) again made clear in the European Court of Human Rights judgement in ABC v Ireland in 2010. In this submission we raised concerns that the proposed DHSSPS guidance had been drafted in a way which made the document less likely to meet the requirements of legal certainty and more likely to be susceptible to litigation. We note that insofar as clear guidance has still not been progressed, the DHSSPS continues to remain in breach of these requirements.

CAJ welcomes the Department of Justice (DoJ) ‘consultation on the criminal law on abortion, lethal foetal abnormality and sexual crime’, issued for consultation until January 2015. The DoJ proposes legislation to enable abortion in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality and pregnancy as a result of rape or incest (sexual crime). CAJ supports these proposals. In taking this position we wish to draw attention to the following human rights jurisprudence.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979 and is widely regarded as an international Women’s Bill of Rights. In the 2008 Concluding Observations on the UK the UN Committee which oversees UK compliance with the UN Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) raised concerns about the detrimental consequences for women’s health in relation to the situation of abortion law in Northern Ireland.

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