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Grainne Teggart, Amnesty's Northern Ireland campaigns manager, said in a statement: "If the court rules that Northern Ireland's abortion ban breaches women's rights, there will be no excuses left for Theresa May - the UK Government will be forced to fulfil its human rights responsibilities and make things equal for the women of Northern Ireland".

"It's my strong, personal, view that it is completely unsustainable for us to have a different law from the south on abortion".

"We took this case to bring greater clarity to the law and we welcome the court's decision", Les Allamby, chief commissioner of the NIHRC, said.

As a result, the judges did not make a formal declaration of incompatibility, which would normally lead to a change in the law.

Amnesty International and women who have been directly impacted by the abortion law intervened in the case, providing evidence that the near total abortion ban is a violation of women's rights. Labour MP Stella Creasy said the referendum to legalise abortion in the Irish Republic was an historic moment that should usher in change in Northern Ireland.

Then Stella Creasy MP led an impassioned debate in the House of Commons on removing abortion from criminal law across the United Kingdom, most significantly impacting upon Northern Ireland.

The UK Government has resisted calls to step in and legislate amid the ongoing powersharing impasse in Northern Ireland, insisting that any decision on abortion in the region has to be taken by locally elected politicians at Stormont.

Theresa May was today urged to defy her DUP backers and to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

But that decision was overturned in June a year ago by three of Northern Ireland's most senior judges. The prime minister must commit to reforming abortion law immediately or be complicit in the harm and inequality caused by the existing law.

But the court's opinion, while laid out at length, is not binding because the case has been dismissed on technical grounds. She would like parliament to repeal parts of the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, thereby decriminalizing abortion in Northern Ireland. "A failure to act would be a cruel betrayal of women".

The current law has "a significant chilling effect" on women seeking abortions and medical professionals who may wish to help them, he added.

Abortion laws were relaxed in the rest of the U.K in 1967, but that legislation was never applied in Northern Ireland, which had its own parliament between the partition of Ireland in 1921 and the imposition of direct rule from London 50 years later.