By Gudrun Schultz Life Chain at Parliament Buildings Belfast

STRASBOURG, France, July 6, 2006 ( – The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a lawsuit brought against the Irish government by an Ireland woman, who travelled to the UK to have an abortion.

Under Irish law, abortion is only permitted if there is a “real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.”

The woman, known as ‘D’, who had two previous children, obtained an abortion in the UK in 2002 during the second trimester of pregnancy with twins. She decided to abort after one of the babies died in the womb and she was told the other had a genetic abnormality known as Trisomy 18, or Edward’s Syndrome. The disorder causes both physical and mental disability and the lifespan of those born with the condition is severely restricted with half living only 2 months and 90% dying within a year.

D. underwent the abortion when the child was nearing 24 weeks gestation-abortions in the UK cannot be performed after 24 weeks unless the mother’s life is in immediate danger.

The woman sued the Irish government for insufficient access to abortion, claiming that her rights were violated under multiple articles of the EU Human Rights Convention, including article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), and article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

She also accused the government of discriminating against her as a pregnant woman or as a woman pregnant with a lethal foetal abnormality. 

The EU Court declared the suit inadmissible in a majority decision earlier this week, stating that the woman had not made a sufficient attempt to obtain an abortion within Ireland before seeking one in the UK.

In a press release yesterday, the Court also stated that the existing abortion law in Ireland was sufficiently flexible to have allowed the woman to obtain an abortion, given her particular circumstances.

The case was expected to have a significant impact on Ireland’s abortion laws, if the Court had decided in the woman’s favour. Pro-life and abortion-rights groups both made submissions to the EU Court,  including the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, the Pro-Life Campaign, the Irish Family Planning Association and the Centre for Reproductive Rights.

The court indicated that if the woman had pursued an abortion within Ireland, the landmark case could potentially have had a far-reaching impact on abortion access in the country.

Statement by the EU Court of Human Rights: