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Published 1 December 2015

The results of a three-day trial concluded that the country’s abortion laws need to be altered.

Northern Ireland’s current abortion laws are in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, a Belfast High court heard.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission brought the case to extend abortion to cases of serious fetal malformation, rape or incest.

Monday’s judicial review concluded that grounds for abortion should be extended beyond the laws in place today.

Currently in Northern Ireland the termination of pregnancies is only permissible when a woman's life is at risk or when there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

High Court justice Mark Horner, who delivered the verdict Monday, said that the country’s current laws that ban a woman from having an abortion when she has been raped or a victim of incest “prevent any consideration of the interests of the women.”

“She has to face all the dangers and problems, emotional or otherwise, of carrying a fetus for which she bears no moral responsibility and is merely a receptacle to carry the child of a rapist and/or a person who has committed incest, or both,” Horner continued in his address.

Horner also confirmed that women who have “fatal foetal abnormalities” while pregnant should also be allowed to have an abortion in Northern Ireland.

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Although the ruling was received well by human rights groups, it remains unclear if the suggested new laws will be implemented by the government.

John Larkin, attorney general, said that he was “profoundly disappointed” by the ruling and was “considering the grounds for appeal.”

Even if an appeal isn’t launched, the Northern Ireland Assembly will have to ratify the proposal to amend the law.

Since the 1970s around 60,000 women from Northern Ireland have made the costly trip to Great Britain in order to have an abortion.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland abortion policy is set by the 1861 Offences Against The Person Act, which imposes a potential penalty of life in prison for anyone convicted of terminating a pregnancy when the life or health of the mother is not at risk.

Despite being part of the U.K. the Northern Irish are not allowed to have the procedure administered for free with the National Health Service, so have to pay for a private service.

Horner said the trip places “an intolerable financial and mental burden on those least able to bear it.”
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