Rival campaigns welcome Supreme Court ruling on abortion services

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The UK Supreme Court ruling on abortion services in Northern Ireland has been welcomed by campaigners on both sides in the Republic.

Together For Yes co-founder Ailbhe Smyth said she welcomed the ruling because the majority of the judges involved in the case said Northern Ireland’s laws were “incompatible” with human rights.

Ms Smyth said she believed the case was lost on a technicality.

“Effectively they are saying they can’t give a ruling that would be in favour of this entity but if an individual were taking a case of that kind it would be a very different matter,” she said.

Ms Smyth said she hoped to see abortion legislated for in Northern Ireland in the next few years and she believed the success of the campaign in the Republic had been encouraging for women and campaigners north of the border.

“I know it gives them heart,” she said.

The Yes campaigner added: “The example and experience of the Republic will be a potent factor of speeding up the process in the north.”

She said campaigning in the country had already gained momentum in recent years because of prosecutions which she described as “unpardonable”.

“It has brought to everyone’s attention that there is an absurd and harmful situation for women in the north,” Ms Smyth said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he sees no reason why women resident in Northern Ireland would not be able to have terminations in the Republic when the laws are changed, but Ms Smyth said it remained unacceptable that women living anywhere on the island would have to travel.

“That notion of travelling has to stop,” Ms Smyth said.

Cora Shelock, of the Prolife Campaign in the Republic, also welcomed the decision for the reason that there will not be a legal requirement to change the laws in Northern Ireland.

“Because the 1967 Abortion Act was not extended to Northern Ireland there are 100,000 people alive as a result,” she said.

Ms Sherlock said the suggestion that legislation preventing abortion was violating human rights law was contested.

“It’s unfortunate that human rights law, in the way that it’s developing, doesn’t acknowledge the fact that there is no right to abortion in international human rights law,” she said. “There is a right to life in the whole process of human rights law.”

Ms Sherlock said it was “very sad” to see some Yes campaigners in the Republic after the referendum results were announced immediately pushing to have laws changed in Northern Ireland.

She added that she hoped the Supreme Court ruling would not be a decision to be “taken apart by abortion advocates” who would “try it again as it were”.

“I hope it will be seen instead as an opportunity to improve supports that families receive in the north of Ireland. that’s something we should be looking at in the south of Ireland as well despite the result,” she said.

“One of the things both sides can agree on is that there is a desire to see fewer abortions take place.”

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