The European Court of Human Rights will today rule on whether Ireland’s restrictions on abortion violate women’s human rights.
The ruling, which could have significant implications for Irish abortion law, is based on a case taken by three women in Ireland who say their health was put at risk by being forced to go abroad for abortions. The court will issue its ruling at a public sitting of the court’s grand chamber this morning, rather than a more common written judgment.
This, legal observers say, reflects the gravity of the judgment. If the court rules the women’s rights were breached, it is likely the Government would be under pressure to legislate for abortion under the circumstances of the 1992 “X” case, where the Supreme Court ruled terminating a pregnancy is lawful where the life of a mother is at risk.
The Strasbourg-based court, which is separate from the EU, adjudicates on human rights issues among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights – now incorporated into Irish law – the Government is obliged to remedy any breaches of the convention. The identities of the women – known as A, B and C – are confidential.
One of the women, a former alcoholic whose four children were in care, feared her pregnancy would prevent her getting her children back and went to a money lender to finance the abortion in England; another – a Lithuanian national – became pregnant while undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer and feared for her health and that of her child; a third who took the morning-after pill was told by doctors the drug had failed and she ran the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb.
At a hearing last year, lawyers argued restrictions in Ireland made having an abortion abroad expensive, complicated and traumatic. In particular, they argued restrictions stigmatised and humiliated them and risked damaging their health and, in one applicant’s case, her life.
The Government, however, robustly defended the State’s positions and argued that Ireland’s abortion laws were based on “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”. Attorney General Paul Gallagher argued that the European Convention on Human Rights had consistently recognised the traditions of different countries regarding the rights of unborn children.
Please pray that this Court's ruling goes the right way (though I'm not holding my breath). Considering how they decided on the issue of the crucifixes in Italian classrooms one could expect them to take a liberal stance.
According to the BBC the court has ruled against Ireland. No surprise there. It is interesting that the women argued that they 'feared' injury or death because of their pregnancies (in Ireland which has the lowest maternal mortality in the world).
It was said at the last amendment that this challenge would come and here it is. If abortion gets in then euthanasia and other crimes against life will follow eventually as society becomes deadened to the sanctity of life. Our Lord warned us that hearts would grow cold. Cold some hearts already are and only too willing to condemn others to death. This in a Europe where the population is already well under the replacement rate. The culture of death is a symptom of the slow suicide of western civilization; a suicide rooted in the denial of God.