European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Irish abortion laws violated the
rights of one of a woman who sought a termination in Britain.
woman, who was in remission for a rare form of cancer, feared it might return
as a result of her pregnancy.
abortion in the Republic is technically allowed if a woman’s life is at risk,
the court said that was not made possible for the woman involved.
Prime Minister Brian Cowen said politicians now needed to consider the
implications of the ruling.
an issue for the whole political spectrum to consider,” he said.
court said that the government in Dublin had breached the woman’s right to
respect for her private life by its “failure to implement the existing constitutional
right to a lawful abortion in Ireland”.
ruled that “neither the medical consultation nor litigation options,
relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible
procedures which allowed the third applicant to establish her right to a lawful
abortion in Ireland”.
court said that the only non-judicial way of determining the risk to a woman’s
life – on which the government relied – was an ordinary medical consultation
between the woman and her doctor. It described this as “ineffective”.
said that women and their doctors both ran a risk of criminal conviction and
imprisonment “if an initial doctor’s opinion that abortion was an option
as it posed a risk to the woman’s health was later found to be against the
court said Irish constitutional courts were not appropriate for determining
whether a woman qualified for a lawful abortion.
Irish law, abortion is a criminal act although a referendum in 1983 amended the
constitution acknowledging the mother’s right to life was equal to that of the
several legal cases, the Irish Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that abortion was
lawful if the mother’s life was at risk.
the Irish parliament has never enacted legislation regulating the
constitutionally guaranteed right.