Abortions for Disability Breach International Treaty, Belfast Court Told
Selecting unborn children for abortion because of their disability is prohibited by an international treaty, Northern Ireland’s top law officer has told the High Court in Belfast. Attorney General John Larkin QC also told the Court that a Belfast woman challenging Northern Ireland’s abortion law does not have the necessary legal status.
Final submissions came as judgment was reserved in Mrs Sarah Ewart’s challenge to the existing strict abortion law. Before rising after two days of argument, Mrs Justice Keegan said, “I obviously have a lot to think about.”
Mrs Ewart (28), mounted a challenge in her own name as a woman directly affected by a ban she claims violates her human rights. In 2013 she travelled to a London abortion facility after being told her unborn child had no chance of survival outside the womb because of a “fatal foetal abnormality”.
Her lawyers contended it should be highly persuasive that the UK Supreme Court decided last year, by a majority, that the law in Northern Ireland was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in FFA cases. They said Mrs Ewart’s shock at being told her baby had no skull or developed brain was compounded by the trauma and humiliation of travelling to England for an abortion, which she likened to being “on a conveyor belt”.
But according to Mr Larkin, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities extends to a prohibition on discrimination before birth - and has been designated as an EU treaty. Arguing that every human being has the inherent right to life, he told the court that, “The unborn child belongs to the human race."
“Selecting out some unborn children for abortion on the basis of disability is prohibited,” he argued. Counsel for Mrs Ewart strongly disputed that this includes babies with conditions considered fatal.
During submissions, the Attorney General also argued that Mrs Ewart does not fulfil the requirements for the necessary victim status. He acknowledged that she went through a “dreadful experience” in 2013, and if she had issued proceedings at that stage, she could have declared herself a victim, the court was told.
Belfast Telegraph. February 1.