Even so, Justice Brenda M. Hale, president of the court, said that a majority “are of the firm and clear opinion that the current law is incompatible with Article 8” of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Britain is a party.
The issue came to a head partly because citizens of Ireland voted overwhelmingly last month to ease that country’s abortion ban, galvanizing many in British-ruled Northern Ireland to renew the fight to scrap that country’s similarly restrictive law.
Five of the seven justices in the high court concluded that Northern Ireland’s abortion law violated European conventions in not allowing abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities. Four of the seven justices said the law violated European conventions by not allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest. Two others said they could not reach a conclusion on the matter.
Those conclusions are not binding. But Justice Brian F. Kerr said that they “must be worthy of close consideration by those in whose power it lies to decide whether the law should be altered.”