European Court Issues Abortion Ruling
Thursday, December 16, 2010

The European Court of Human Rights today upheld the right of individual states to determine sovereign laws on abortion and ruled that the European Convention on Human Rights does not contain a right to abortion. 


The Court issued its judgment in a case, known as ABC, filed by three women from Ireland who claimed that Ireland violated Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights by not allowing abortion in Ireland.


The Court rejected the claims of the first two women by a vote of 11 to 6 and stated that Article 8 had not been violated. The case was filed in 2005, the year all three women traveled to the UK for their abortions and reported medical complications from the abortions upon return to Ireland.


In regards to the third woman, "C",  who was in remission from cancer and feared that the pregnancy would cause a relapse of the cancer, the Court ruled unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 8 when Ireland failed to provide recourse for her decision to seek an abortion. The Court determined there was an existing Constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland for life of the mother exception and ruled that Ireland was to pay the third applicant 15,000 euros (EUR) in damages.


Pro-life leaders were quick to respond to the judgment on "C". John Smeaton, national director of the Society for Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said:


"The court has misinterpreted the Irish Constitution and confused abortion with healthcare. The Irish Constitution does not confer any right to abortion, nor can the right to life of unborn children in any way be held to be in competition with the right to life of their mothers. Abortion is not healthcare, and Ireland, where abortion is banned, has the world's best record for maternal health. If implemented in law, this judgement would legalize abortion in a wide range of circumstances.

"This case was never about helping women faced with a crisis pregnancy. It was instigated by the international abortion lobby, which has with the ultimate aim of forcing governments across the globe to recognise access to abortion as a legal right."


The ABC ruling by the Grand Chamber was a disappointment to pro-abortion litigators who had hoped the case would be the Roe vs. Wade of Europe. The Center for Reproductive Rights had issued a friend of the court brief arguing that "Ireland's abortion law is inconsistent with legal standards for abortion regulations in international human rights law and in comparison to other countries in Europe". 


The Court disagreed and recognized that Ireland, and all European member states, have the authority to make sovereign decisions on abortion laws. This is especially welcome and encouraging news to pro-life parliamentarians in Europe who seek to advance respect and dignity for life through law and policy.