Reading narratives of privilege and paternalism: the limited utility of Human Rights Law on the Journey to Reform Northern Irish Abortion Law

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Abstract

This article argues that a gendered conceptualisation of rights means that an invisible barrier had to be surmounted when attempting to frame denial of access to abortion in Northern Ireland as a human rights violation. It considers the Supreme Court decisions of In the matter of an application by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) and R (on the application of A and B) v Secretary of State for Health; examines what they reveal about the potentiality of human rights law to advance women’s rights; and analyses the limited success of human rights litigation in securing reproductive rights for Northern Irish women. It posits that the reason for this is the continued framing of abortion in the United Kingdom as a paternalistic privilege permitted to women only in limited scenarios and locations. It demonstrates how courts implicitly endorse this framing and consequently exclude women’s victimhood from the human rights framework.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-131
Number of pages43
JournalNorthern Ireland Legal Quarterly
Volume72
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

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