Pro-Life Groups Respond to European Court Ruling on Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 16, 2010   |   12:25PM   |   Strasbourg, France

Several pro-life groups have issued responses to the ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights that confirmed there is no abortion right in Europe or Ireland.

The ruling, however, did favor abortion in limited cases, which has drawn strong condemnation from pro-life groups.

The European Centre for Law and Justice said it “cautiously welcomes” the decision:

“The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided there is “no human right to abortion” stemming from the European Convention and that the Irish Constitutional prohibition of abortion respects the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECLJ applauds the recognition by the ECHR of the existence of the “right to life of the unborn”. (§233) but rejects the assumption that the ECHR has that the Irish constitution does allow abortion.”

“Apart from those positive holdings affirming that there is no right to abortion, the ECLJ must strongly reject the erroneous assumption of the ECHR of the existing of a “lawful abortion in Ireland in accordance with Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution” Article 40.3.3, adopted by a referendum held in 1983, reads as follows and doesn’t recognize any right to abortion : “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” The Court’s interpretation of article 40.3.3, may lead to a forced recognition of a right to abortion.”

Americans United for Life’s legal guru William Saunders said the court could have issued a worse decision that forced abortion in all cases on Ireland and the rest of Europe:

Abortion proponents’ efforts to make abortion a “right” in Europe were thwarted today when the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that the European Convention on Human Rights contains no “right” to abortion. The Court rightly found that matters relating to abortion should be left to the member states’ own domestic laws.

The Court dismissed two of the plaintiffs’ health-based claims in A, B, C v. Ireland because it found no right had been violated under the Convention. In the remaining woman’s situation, the Court stated that Ireland needs to take steps to better comply with its own domestic laws.

The Court’s ruling that abortion is not a right under the Convention is a victory for those who value the sanctity of all innocent human life. The Convention was designed to protect against injustice. The Court correctly held that the Convention cannot be used to deny a member state’s right to legally protect its smallest and most vulnerable members.

Youth Defence has described the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in the ABC case as “intrusive, unwelcome and an attempt to violate Ireland’s pro-life laws.”

Spokeswoman Rebecca Roughneen also added that the ruling the Court’s finding was “not surprising” given that the court had shown in previous rulings that it supported abortion and the Council of Europe, who governed the court, had also attempted to coerce Ireland into legalising abortion.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that despite claims to the contrary, this ruling by the European Court of Human Rights was not really binding in a practicable sense. “The ruling is not enforceable, the Court cannot force Ireland to change her laws or collect penalties from Ireland if we refuse.”

Ui Bhriain also said that while the ECHR does have a legal standing, it had now completely demolished its own moral authority by denying human rights to unborn children. “This is a high-handed, coercive judgment,” she said. “It’s agenda-driven, illogical and refuses to recognise either the medical facts, or the sovereign right of the Irish people to decide on important moral issues.”

“In Ireland, under our constitution, the people are sovereign: they will make the final decision in regard to abortion. That’s a right the Irish people feel very strongly about – and that’s why our politicians haven’t moved to legalise abortion here – because there would be uproar,” she added.

Youth Defence also said that the case had been a propaganda exercise by the Irish Family Planning Association, who had falsely tried to claim that genuine medical treatments, such as those that treat an ectopic pregnancy or cancer, should be classified as abortion. They also pointed out that the UN says that Ireland, where abortion is banned, is the safest place in the world for a woman to have a baby.

“The Irish people have shown in three separate referenda that they don’t want abortion legalised here. It’s very significant that abortion campaigners wanted to use a foreign court to impose abortion on the Irish people. They’re desperate to bypass the democratic right of the people to choose. This is one country which has not fallen to the abortion industry, and we’re working to keep it that way,” said Rebecca Roughneen.

The Alliance Defense Fund also reacted to the decision with cautious optimism:

“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless, and no one should force any sovereign nation to give up its right to protect life in its constitution if it so chooses,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “In this case, the court wisely upheld that right as it has done in the past. The stakes were clearly high for all of Europe, but also for other Western nations, such as the U.S., because their courts often closely watch how European courts are ruling.”

“The court was right to reassert that there is no right to abortion under the Convention, but it’s regrettable that Ireland lost on the third count despite such a lack of judicial record, physician consultation, or recourse to Irish courts,” Kiska said. “We will be closely monitoring the effect of that portion of the decision.”

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.

“This warped decision lacks all legitimacy. It is vitally important that the people of Ireland continue to stand-up for the rights of unborn children who are the youngest and most vulnerable members of society. Abortion not only kills children: it is deeply damaging to women.”

Patrick Buckley, of European Life Network Ireland and of SPUC, said:

“The court has failed to respect Ireland’s national sovereignty by unilaterally misinterpreting the Irish Constitution’s protection of the right to life. Ireland must dismiss out of hand this interference in a very sensitive national and constitutional issue. Europe is again deciding over the heads of the Irish people. We wonder what will be next tomorrow?

“In protecting  the unborn from abortion Ireland is fulfilling its duty under international human rights law to protect the lives of its innocent citizens. In any case, the Irish Supreme Court has already ruled* that the Irish Constitution trumps the European Convention on Human Rights, because the Convention is not part of Irish law and therefore not directly applicable in Irish cases.”

Professor William Binchy of the Pro-Life Campaign in Ireland has issued an extensive analysis of the case.