UK abortion law: Private Members' Bills, devolution and the role of the courts

Robert Taylor, Adelyn L. M. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


UK abortion law remains unsettled, and subject to on-going controversy and reform. This article offers a comprehensive critique of all reforms implemented or proposed since 2016. It examines reforms proposed in both Houses of Parliament and contextualises them within a public law analysis, showing both that the complex parliamentary processes relating to Private Members’ Bills have frustrated reform attempts, and that these attempts have been contradictory in their aims between the two Houses. Secondly, it examines the unique positions of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to show the extent to which devolutionary settlements have influenced both reforms and executive involvement. Finally, it examines the potential impact of the courts on abortion law following Re Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's Application for Judicial Review, showing that the Supreme Court's reframing of the debate in human rights terms is likely to affect abortion law, not only in Northern Ireland, but in the whole of the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-104
Number of pages34
JournalModern Law Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2019


  • abortion
  • devolution
  • private members' bills
  • convention rights
  • judicial review
  • human rights


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