Ireland Government Files Legal Papers Defending Abortion Ban at European Court

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 21, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Ireland Government Files Legal Papers Defending Abortion Ban at European Court

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 21
, 2009

Dublin, Ireland ( — The government of Ireland has filed legal papers with the European Court of Human Rights in defense of it ban on most abortions. The court is slated to hold a hearing soon on a case involving three women who traveled to Britain to obtain abortions.

They hope to overturn Ireland’s strong pro-life laws that prohibit abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger. They say they were denied their rights because the Irish pro-life abortion law requires them to travel out of the country for an abortion.

The Strasbourg-based court is considering whether it has standing to rule in the case.

According to the Irish Times, the government is resting its defense on the contention that the women have not exhausted the legal remedies they have in Ireland. As a result, government attorneys say they should not have brought the case to the court, which covers the 42 members of the Council of Europe.

The Irish government also insists the European Convention on Human Rights, on which the court operates, does not confer a right to abortion and the member states of the Council have never voted for the convention to authorize such a right.

The court recently allowed two American pro-life groups to file legal briefs in the case.

In November, the Family Research Council, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund pro-life law firm, filed papers supporting the ban with the court.

Bill Saunders, the Human Rights Counsel at FRC, told that the documents make it clear to the court that it should not confirm an international right to abortion. Such a ruling could have a bearing beyond the Ireland case and extend to other nations.

"There is no international ‘right’ to abortion, and it is important to defend the right of countries to restrict abortion," Saunders said. "Courts must respect the right of the people to decide this issue without judicial interference."

The women in the case claim the Irish abortion law jeopardizes their health and well-being and they are basing their argument on four articles in the European Convention on Human Rights.

ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull previously told the firm is looking forward to its involvement in the important case.

“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless," he said. "ADF and FRC are looking forward to defending Ireland’s abortion ban so that scores of pre-born children are guaranteed the protection the Irish people gave them."

Bull says the ramifications of the decision in this case can’t be understated.

“This case is not only pivotal to Europe; it’s pivotal to America. With greater frequency, the U.S. Supreme Court looks across the ocean to see what other countries are doing when considering its own cases," he says. "This case could be the Roe v. Wade of Europe.”

The European Court of Human Rights granted review of the case, A, B, & C v. Ireland. The court decided to allow the Family Research Council and two other pro-life organizations to intervene as defendants in the lawsuit and asked them to file a joint brief defending their position.

The identity of the women is kept confidential under the lawsuit, but one woman says she had an ectopic pregnancy, another was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer at the time of her pregnancy, and the third had her other children taken away by government officials at the time she became pregnant.

The pro-abortion Irish Family Planning Association is backing the women in the case as part of its crusade to make abortions legal in Ireland.

“We hope the case will advance quickly through the court, ultimately making a strong recommendation to the Government to reform Irish laws and the current status quo on abortion,” an IFPA representative told the Irish Times newspaper.

The case was originally launched three years ago but the European court requested more information from the Irish government and the women involved.

The final decision of the court is binding and it may hold a public hearing on the case sometime in 2009 or it could decide sooner without a hearing.

IFPA says it is encouraged the court may possibly decide in favor of the women after it ruled in favor of a Polish woman in another abortion case.

Meanwhile, pro-life groups in Ireland are pushing for a stronger constitutional amendment that would further protect unborn children from abortions.

Related web sites:
See a copy of the AD law brief for FRC at

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