Supreme Court to consider if Northern Ireland anti-abortion buffer zones bill is 'proportionate' with rights to protest

The Attorney General for Northern Ireland has asked the Supreme Court to consider whether a Bill implementing buffer zones is in “proportionate interference” with the rights of those who express opposition to abortion services.

The action from Northern Ireland’s Attorney General comes as Scotland has seen a rise in anti-abortion protesting outside hospitals and clinics.

Under the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, it would be an offence in Northern Ireland for a protected person to do an act in a safe access zone with the intent of influencing a protected person, whether directly or indirectly.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

However, Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, Dame Brenda King, has now asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the offence is a “proportionate interference” with the rights of those who wish to express opposition to abortion services.

The UK's Supreme Court has been asked to consider Northern Ireland anti-abortion buffer zones (Photo: Dan Kitwood).

Read More

Read More
Scotland 'must act quickly' on abortion services as new study shows women 'overw...

A statement from Northern Ireland’s attorney general reads: “The Attorney has asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the offence created by Clause 5(2)(a) of the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, which does not provide for a defence of reasonable excuse, is a proportionate interference with the rights of those who wish to express opposition to abortion services in Northern Ireland.

"This is a legal issue distinct from any contentious policy question as to the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland.

"If Clause 5(2)(a) is determined by the Court to be within the competence of the Assembly, the Bill may proceed to become law. A date for hearing is awaited.”

Commenting on the action from the Attorney General, Lucy Grieve from Back Off Scotland said: “It’s expected and we're confident that the courts in Northern Ireland will, as the courts in England have, recognise the rights of women to access care without fear of harassment, alarm and distress.”

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.