Hilary White, Rome Correspondent


Another ruling against Poland’s pro-life laws from European human rights court

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

STRASBOURG, May 26, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – International abortion lobbyists in Europe are celebrating a ruling handed down this week from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), accusing Poland of violating an international human rights treaty by maintaining legal protections for the unborn.

The abortion lobby group, Federation for Women and Family Planning, issued a press release today expressing their “great satisfaction” at the ruling. The group admitted that the case had been engineered by a coalition of international abortion lobbyists.

“The R.R. case was conducted by our organization in cooperation with the Warsaw University Law Clinic, supported by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Att. Monika Gąsiorowska and Irmina Kotkiuk, who conducted the case at the Court, are members of the Federation’s Network of Lawyers,” they wrote.

The group said that the ruling is “a great success in our fight for respecting the women’s reproductive rights in Poland.”

In the case the plaintiff, Mrs. R. R., complained to the court about the refusal by her physician to prescribe prenatal genetic tests within the legal time frame for abortion.

The ECHR ruled that the Polish government had not provided the woman with a possibility to exercise her fundamental right to information. Furthermore, the court stated, the Polish State does not provide an effective mechanism for exercising this right.

Poland is one of the last countries in Europe, with Malta and the Republic of Ireland, to maintain significant restrictions on abortion, a fact that has left it the target of intensive lobbying from abortion proponents.

Mrs. R. R. later gave birth to a girl who suffers from “Turner Syndrome,” a chromosomal abnormality whose symptoms are shortness of stature and sterility. She claimed that her right to respect for private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights was violated when she was denied the possibility to carry out prenatal genetic tests, which could have allowed a determination of whether the strict conditions for abortion were satisfied under Article 4a of the Polish law.

She had launched a civil suit and had unsuccessfully requested the prosecuting authorities to institute criminal proceedings against the physician. The court awarded Mrs. R. R. €45,000 in compensation.

Several pro-abortion organizations, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Programme of the University of Toronto had been following the case, with the latter being allowed to submit written comments to the court as a third party. This was despite the fact that the case had not been published in the court’s usual system.

Gregor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice, indicated that the failure to publish the information had damaged the court’s transparency. Puppinck said that his organization had only been able to “piece together” information about the case.

In Poland, abortion is legal and is allowed up to 12 weeks gestation when the mother’s “life or health” is believed to be endangered by the pregnancy, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, or when the fetus is “seriously malformed.”

This is the second time the ECHR has ruled against Poland’s pro-life laws. In 2007, it awarded Alicia Tysiac, a single mother of three from Warsaw, €25,000 in damages, saying that her right to privacy was violated when the law refused her an abortion; she claimed the pregnancy would have rendered her blind. The court refused an appeal by the Polish government later that year.

In the Tysiac case, one of the ECHR judges wrote in a dissenting opinion that there is a growing conflict between the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights. He said, “The Court has decided that a human being was born as a result of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“According to this reasoning, there is a Polish child, currently six years old, whose right to be born contradicts the Convention. I would never have thought that the Convention would go so far, and I find it frightening.”

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