UK Supreme Court finds by majority that Abortion Laws are in breach of Women’s Human Rights

KRW LAW LLP is instructed by Mrs Sarah Ewart and Mrs Grainne Taggart, Campaign Manager at Amnesty International (AI) Northern Ireland.


The UK Supreme Court (UKSC) today found by a majority that the current legislative framework in Northern Ireland is contrary to women’s human rights, and in particular their right to family and private life pursuant to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


The case was taken by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) in which KRW LAW LLP act for the interveners, Sarah Ewart and Amnesty International, who were further supported by the affidavit evidence of Mrs Denise Phelan.  Both Sarah Ewart and Denise Phelan were forced to provide testimony of their harrowing accounts, in which they were deprived of their right to abortion in circumstances of a fatal foetal abnormality.


In the words of Lord Kerr today, ‘The courage of these women in giving unsparing accounts of their experiences is wholly admirable’(§141).


The UKSC took the opportunity to express and relay their concerns around the legal compatibility of the legislation with human rights, and in particular stated that the law in regard to fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest  ‘is untenable and intrinsically disproportionate’ and now requires‘radical reconsideration’ (§135).


Regrettably the UKSC further found that the NIHRC did not have standing to bring the case in the first instance and as such no declaration was made accordingly. However, its view demand serious consideration.


Mr Darragh Mackin, Partner and Solicitor for Sarah Ewart and Amnesty International said:


“Today’s ruling is a true testament to the relentless courage our clients have shown in standing up and speaking out against these oppressive prehistoric laws.  The Court has given clear guidance as to what is required to ensure the legal framework in NI is compatible with human rights.  There is no wiggle room for political opinion or external pressures in ensuring that there is adequate protection for women in upholding their human rights.   


The battle is however far from over.  In light of the findings that the legislation as it stands breaches our client’s human rights, and in the absence of the formal declaration, our client Sarah Ewart has had no alternative but to begin the process of issuing proceedings against the respective bodies seeking a formal declaration. . 


Until such times as the legal framework caters for what are very basic human rights, our client has made it clear that she will continue to take the case to the highest level to ensure that no woman has to go through the traumatic experience in which she was so forced. 


All eyes are now on those respective bodies to ensure that immediate action is taken to bring this vacuum of human rights protection to an immediate end.” ENDS


Note for Editors


  1. For all enquiries please contact Darragh Mackin on 07976070023 or email


  1. KRW LAW LLP is instructed by Mrs Sarah Ewart and Mrs Grainne Taggart, Campaign Manager at Amnesty International.Affidavit evidence was adduced by Mrs Denise Phelan (and others) in support of their case.


  1. For a summary of the evidence provided by the affected victims please see the following paragraphs of the judgment: Mrs Sarah Ewart 86, 138-139; and Mrs Denise Phelan §87and 140.


  1. For Press Summary of the UKSC: