United Kingdom top court says can't enforce abortion law change in Northern Ireland

Theresa May has been urged to support liberalisation of Northern Ireland's laws

But a majority of the judges also found that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had no legal standing to bring its challenge against the laws as they dismissed it on a technicality.

Parliament in the United Kingdom have won permission for an emergency debate on the abortion law in Northern Ireland.

Theresa May was today urged to defy her DUP backers and to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland. It can not wait for the Northern Ireland Assembly to reconvene and potentially act - it must now act itself. Since the Irish referendum was approved, British Prime Minister Theresa May has dealt with mounting pressure to reform Northern Ireland's abortion statutes.

The commission welcomed the court's opinion that the law was incompatible with the European Convention, but said it was disappointed in the ruling that it did not have sufficient powers to take the case. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

"This is a landmark decision that I hope will lead to changes that will improve the lives of women in Northern Ireland and the care they receive".

Ewart, right, has said she intends to bring the case to Belfast's High Court.

She added, "That is why the government, like its predecessors, believes that the best forum to debate and resolve these and many other matters is a locally elected Northern Ireland assembly, so the government's priority remains to urgently re-establish strong, inclusive, devolved government at the earliest opportunity".

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"As such, the court does not have jurisdiction to make a declaration of incompatibility (with human rights law) in this case", the court said in a summary of the decision.

Britain's Supreme Court on Thursday criticized Northern Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws but dismissed a legal challenge. "What we need is compassion and services in Northern Ireland".

What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, said: "There is no evidence that the moral views of the people of Northern Ireland are against allowing abortion in these circumstances. Those responsible for ensuring the compatibility of Northern Irish law, will no doubt recognise and take account of these conclusions...by considering how to amend the law, in the light of the ongoing suffering being caused by it".

Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC had argued against the NIHRC case, saying that the Province's law on abortion was a matter for the "democratic judgment" of the legislature.

Lord Kerr stated that the answer to the breaches of human rights could be achieved through an amendment to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (NI) 1945.

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