European Human Rights Watchdog Criticizes Ireland for Not Legalizing Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 1, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

European Human Rights Watchdog Criticizes Ireland for Not Legalizing Abortion

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 1
, 2008

Dublin, Ireland ( — The leading human rights watchdog in Europe is blasting Ireland today for not having legalized abortion. The new 58-page report on the human rights conditions in Ireland from the Council of Europe comes after a visit to the nation in November by Thomas Hammarberg.

Hammarberg is the human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe and he met with several politicians and representatives of non-governmental organizations on his trip.

The Irish Times indicates the report criticizes lawmakers in Ireland for not putting legislation in place clarifying when abortions can be legally done following the 1992 Supreme Court "X" case judgment.

The abortion issue took center stage in Ireland in 1992 when a 14-year-old rape victim was initially prevented by the High Court from going to Britain for an abortion.

The Irish Supreme Court later issued a decision stating that a pregnant woman had a right to an abortion if there was a substantive risk to her life, including the risk of suicide. In a referendum, the government tried to have the threat of suicide eliminated as a valid reason for an abortion, but the effort failed.

Hammarberg said Ireland could face proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights if it didn’t spell out the occasions when abortions are allowed.

"I urge the Irish authorities to ensure that legislation is enacted to resolve this problem and that adequate medical services are provided to carry out legal abortions in line with the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court," he said.

But the Independent newspaper indicated government officials told him there are no plans to put legislation forward promoting abortion.

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive’s decision to call a halt to the practice of funding abortions abroad for Irish women, when the unborn baby has a severe abnormality, may give rise to legal action.

Ireland’s constitutional provision on the right to life of the unborn looks set to be challenged again, Family & Life in Ireland tells

The possibility of yet another legal challenge looms large, with the pro-abortion Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) that is a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, confirming it has sought legal advice about a potential case.

A spokesman for the HSE rejected the IFPA’s complaint and said such funding ‘‘did not apply to procedures that are illegal in Ireland."

A late 2005 poll by the Irish Examiner indicated that the majority of voters under age 35 favor legalizing abortion — a marked change from traditional Irish thinking on the subject.

However, a September poll showed that 47 percent of Irish citizens would vote against a referendum legalizing abortion while only 36 percent would vote for it.

Abortion advocates say more than 100,000 women have traveled to Britain for abortions since 1983.

Last month, the Council of Europe drew jeers from the pro-life community for approving a resolution calling on its member nations to legalize abortion or pave the way for more abortions if they’ve already done so.

The resolution targets Ireland as well as Malta and Poland, which also make abortions illegal.

The report calls on all 47 member countries to guarantee ‘‘women’s effective exercise of their right to abortion and to lift restrictions which hinder access to safe abortion."

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed the resolution on a 102-69 vote with 14 members abstaining.

The council also rejected amendments form pro-life members to weaken some of the pro-abortion language.

"Tragically, this is the first time that any international document has asserted a right to abortion," Pat Buckley of the British Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said.