European Court to Rule on Ireland Abortion Law This Week

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 13, 2010   |   1:15PM   |   Strasbourg, France

The European Court of Human Rights will rule on a key abortion case this week that affects not only the abortion law in Ireland but could have an affect on the rest of Europe.

The case involves the Ireland law that bans most abortions and the move could have more of a legal effect on the court’s member states.

Abortion advocates hope to overturn Ireland’s strong pro-life laws that prohibit abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger.

Women who had to travel to England for abortions claim they were denied their rights because the Irish pro-life abortion law requires them to travel out of the country for an abortion.

The European Court of Human Rights moved the case last year to its Grand Chamber — making it binding on all lower chambers and on all member states.

The British pro-life group SPUC, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, says it expected the ruling to be delivered on Thursday in the case of three women seeking to overturn Ireland’s constitutional protection for unborn children. SPUC is calling pro-life advocates to pray that the right to life of children continues to be protected in Ireland.

Patrick Buckley, of European Life Network Ireland and SPUC, said, “The importance of this case cannot be exaggerated. The Court must acknowledge the right to life of the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family if it is to retain any credibility in defending the most fundamental right of all human beings.”

“While no international treaty has ever recognized access to abortion as a human right, the European Court has in previous cases failed in its obligation to uphold the right to life of children before birth. This case was instigated by the international abortion lobby because it has failed to persuade the people of Ireland to legalize abortion,” he explained. “But success in the European Court would also be a stepping stone towards the creation of an internationally recognized human right to abortion on demand.”

Family & Life in Ireland also commented on the impending decision and said it would have “significant implications for Irish abortion law.”

It noted the women who brought the case “are funded by the Irish Family Planning Association (the Irish affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation).”

The pro-life Irish group praised the government for having “robustly defended the laws” — saying it said abortion laws were based on “profound moral values deeply 
embedded in Irish society.”

“It argued that the European Convention on Human Rights had consistently recognized the traditions of different  countries regarding the rights of unborn children. However, it maintained that the women’s challenge sought to undermine,” Family & Life said.

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.

Previously, Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe and a legal counsel for the American pro-life legal group Alliance Defense Fund, told the case could set an official policy on the issue for Europe.

“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless. Ireland’s constitutional amendment defending innocent life is under attack, and now the stakes have just gotten higher,” he said. “With the case moving to the Grand Chamber, the ramifications of the decision that is eventually reached in the case are massive.”

“The case is not only pivotal to Europe; it is pivotal to America as well,” Kiska added. “With ever-greater frequency, American courts have considered what other countries are doing when deciding their own cases. This case could be the Roe v. Wade of Europe, so its importance should not be underestimated.”

ADF attorneys filed a joint brief in November 2008 along with two other pro-life organizations at the court’s request after it allowed the groups to intervene as defendants in the case. [related]

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.

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