DUBLIN, September 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Irish government’s decision to set up a committee of experts to look at a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that Ireland must amend its laws restricting abortion has met protest from pro-abortion groups.
The ECHR had ruled that Ireland must enact legislation legalizing abortion in the case of a mother’s life being put at risk by continuing a pregnancy.
However, Irish law already recognizes that medical treatment, such as for cancer, which causes unintentional harm to the unborn baby is not abortion; such treatment is therefore fully accessible to all Irish women under the constitution.
Rather than proposing legislation as demanded by the ECHR, the Irish government has now decided simply to set up a commission to consider the ECHR’s pronouncement.
The pro-abortion Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) accused the government of being equivocal in its response to the ECHR ruling, saying that plans to set up an expert group showed “a clear lack of leadership,” according to the Irish news service thejournal.ie.
IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said in a submission to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, “The establishment of an expert group is unnecessary and represents a considered avoidance by the State of its duty to execute the judgment” of the ECHR, adding, “There is no rationale for further delay in executing the judgment.”
Ireland’s constitution states that the country: “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 Irish government’s ban on abortion was challenged in 2009 in the European Court of Human Rights by three women, known only as A, B and C, who claimed Ireland’s pro-life abortion laws contravened the European Convention on Human Rights in that they were forced to travel abroad to abort their children.
The Irish Family Planning Association, which represented the plaintiffs, said this placed “enormous physical, emotional and financial burdens” upon the three women, and “interfered with the most intimate aspects of their private and family lives without adequate justification.”
Last year the ECHR ruled in favor of the complaint of one of the three women in the case, who had been receiving treatment for cancer at the time she sought an abortion, saying that Ireland’s pro-life laws violated her right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ECHR gave Ireland until September 16, 2011 to present a plan of action to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe outlining how it will implement the judgment.
The pro-abortion Irish Council for Civil Liberties, in its own submission to the Committee of Ministers complained, “The Government’s proposal to create yet another ‘Expert Group’ ... does not constitute an efficient means to implement the Court’s judgment.”
Professor William Binchy, Regius Professor of Laws at Trinity College, Dublin, and legal consultant to the Pro Life Campaign of Ireland, contends, however, that existing Irish laws and medical practice which protects both mothers and unborn children, recognizing them as two distinct patients, is fully justified within the European Convention on Human Rights and there is no need to legislate for abortion.
“The Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) would have no democratic legitimacy in legislating in consequence of the judgment [of the ECHR],” Prof. Binchy wrote in the Irish Times.
“On the contrary,” Prof. Binchy challenged, “there is a clear entitlement for people to be given the opportunity in a referendum to address the subject of legal protection for unborn children in a calm, mutually respectful and – most importantly – fully informed way.”
“To give effect to the [ECHR] Court’s uninformed and mistaken holding would do serious damage, not only to unborn children, of course, but also to the existing approach of Irish doctors who realise that respecting the rights and dignity of two patients is best medicine.”
Irish voters overwhelmingly approved Ireland’s pro-life constitutional provision in a 1983 referendum.
Prof. Binchy noted that a recent poll commissioned by the Pro Life Campaign found that 70 per cent of 950 adults surveyed favored constitutional protection for the unborn, 13 per cent opposed it, and 16 per cent did not know or had no opinion.
“This outcome reflects a consistent pattern of public opinion extending over many years, where the question clarifies the distinction between current medical practice and targeting the life of the unborn child,” Prof. Binchy stated.