STRASBOURG, December 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The European Court of Human Rights has found that Ireland’s constitutional legal protections for the unborn violated the right to privacy of one of the three applicants in a mixed decision in the much-anticipated ABC case. The Court ordered the Irish government to pay €15,000 to the third applicant within three months.
However, at the same time the Court dismissed the complaints of the other two women and found that there is “no human right to abortion” stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights, an aspect of the decision that has been welcomed by pro-life leaders.
The case was brought by one Lithuanian living in Ireland and two Irish nationals who sought abortions in the UK and who claimed that Ireland’s 1983 constitutional amendment outlawing abortion violated their rights.
The third woman was in remission from a rare form of cancer at the time she sought an abortion. She claimed that the pregnancy could lead to the cancer’s return. Irish law technically allows abortion when the mother’s life is in danger, but she alleged that “the chilling effect of the Irish legal framework,” had violated her right to be told of the “option” of abortion.
The Court has instructed the Irish government to issue guidance to allow doctors to inform women in what circumstances abortion is a legal option. It claimed that the Irish Constitution gives women a “right” to abortion under its protection of the equal right to life of the mother of an unborn child.
Bernadette Smyth of the Irish pro-life group Precious Life said that “we welcome” the decision that there is no “human right” to abortion under the European Convention. However, she continued, “the Court has misinterpreted the Irish Constitution in its ruling on the third woman.”
Liam Gibson, who works in Ireland for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and spoke to LifeSiteNews.com minutes after the decision was issued, agreed that the Court had “totally misunderstood” Irish law under which there is no such thing as a “right” to abortion.
“The court is pretending there is a legal option for abortion,” Gibson said. “But abortion is not health care. Under Irish law, everyone has the right to adequate medical care to protect life, but this can never include direct abortion, the deliberate killing of an unborn child,” he said.
The ruling, he said, “has turned the pro-life amendment on its head and says it gives a right to abortion. But that’s a complete reversal of what the constitution says and the purpose of it.
“Recognising the equal right of the mother and the child does not give the mother a right to abortion.”
Pro-life interveners made lengthy submissions to the Court demonstrating that abortion is never included in any definition of health care in Ireland. “They should have thrown the case out completely,” Gibson said. “But the ideology of abortion runs right through the European Court of Human rights.”
John Smeaton, the head of SPUC in London warned that the decision will have far-reaching effects on the attempts in Europe to secure the right to life of all persons.
“This warped decision lacks all legitimacy,” Smeaton said. “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.”
Gibson said that ECHR, due to its “pervasive” pro-abortion mentality, has assumed that abortion is invariably included in health care. He warned that the decision will be used as a pretext for weakening Irish law, saying there is a strongly pro-abortion mentality within Ireland’s political class. While it does not immediately overturn the law, the ECHR ruling will likely cause problems at the next general election, he said.
Abortion is prohibited not only by Ireland’s constitution, but under criminal law by section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. According to the Civil Liability Act, “the law relating to wrongs shall apply to an unborn child for his protection in like manner as if the child were born, provided the child is subsequently born alive”.
Gibson said that a new government would likely try to bring in abortion through medical practice guidelines, binding on physicians, that would not be subject to a referendum.
Such guidelines have been repeatedly brought forward by pro-abortion activists in the British government in Northern Ireland, although they have been rejected as contrary to Northern Irish law that also prohibits abortion.
Gibson said, “The problem will be when an incoming government chooses to use this ruling to establish a wider access to abortion.”
“The attitude will certainly be favourable to the pro-abortion side,” in any new government. “They’ve only been too eager to try to put through some legislation or guideline that will not have to be brought to the people.”