Pro-Lifers Fear Disastrous Decision in “Roe v. Wade of Europe” Case

By Hilary White

STRASBOURG, December 10, 2009 ( - Pro-life advocates involved in the "A, B and C v. Ireland" case fear that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is preparing to issue "an activist" decision that could lead to the abolition of the pro-life amendment of Ireland's constitution.

The ECHR heard arguments yesterday in the case that has been described as the "Roe v. Wade of Europe." Three women, two Irish nationals and one Lithuanian, who live in Ireland and obtained abortions in the UK, have complained to the Court that had they been allowed to have had abortions in Ireland they could have avoided medical complications, expense and "trauma."

In 1983 the Constitution of Ireland was amended to read, "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."

In Court documents, the women have claimed that having to travel to the UK, "made the procedure unnecessarily expensive, complicated and traumatic," and that the "restriction stigmatised and humiliated them and risked damaging their health." They are being supported in their suit by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), an affiliate of International Planned Parenthood.

The women claim that Ireland's law on abortion "was not sufficiently clear and precise, since the Constitutional term 'unborn' was vague and the criminal prohibition on abortion was open to different interpretations."

Pro-life advocates fear the ECHR is preparing to issue "an activist opinion" that will "abandon settled jurisprudence, impinge the sovereignty of Ireland, and result in a global assault on the unborn." William Saunders, senior vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life and a consultant in the case, wrote on National Review Online that ECHR case law and the European Convention on Human Rights, "would decide the merits of the case in favor of Ireland, but the mere fact that the Court is entertaining arguments is troubling."

The Court, in noting that the women had become pregnant "unintentionally," has dropped a hint that the question has already been decided, Saunders wrote.

"What relevance is the intent to create a human being to Ireland's right to protect its life once created?"

Saunders points out that the Court has bypassed the normal procedures for deciding which cases it will hear, which require that all possible local legal avenues be pursued before making appeals to the ECHR. He notes also that the ECHR has unusually referred the case to the Grand Chamber before waiting for an opinion from the lower chamber.

Other pro-life groups are warning that should the decision go against the Irish law, the case could have far-reaching effects for the other countries of the EU and around the world. John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, which has filed a brief in the case, has said that the case is part of a larger plan by US abortion lobbyists to install a "right to abortion" in jurisdictions around the world.

Smeaton cited a memo prepared by the New York based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), that revealed a detailed strategy to distort existing international human rights treaties in cases before international courts and in particular before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

CRR intervened in a case in 2007 in which the ECHR ruled that the human rights of a woman who had been refused an abortion in Poland had been violated under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Smeaton said the claims of the women in the A, B and C case "are not only unfounded, they are an attempt to pervert everything the European Convention originally set out to protect."

"No treaty or convention has ever recognised access to abortion as a human right. Article 2 of the European Convention protects the right to life and while it does not specifically prohibit abortion, it would be turning the convention on its head to argue that it provides a right to kill through abortion," he added. 

Read related LSN coverage:

Human Rights Court Case Could be Europe's Roe v. Wade: ADF Attorney

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