Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Irish Abortion Ban Violated Women’s Rights

Partial Pro-Choice victory after European Court of Human Rights Ruling

The European Court of Human Rights today (16.12.10) ruled on claims that Ireland’s abortion ban breached the human rights of three women, known as A, B and C, who were forced to travel to the UK to terminate their pregnancies.

Though the court unanimously dismissed the cases of two of the women, it was decided that the third woman—who became pregnant while in remission from a rare form of cancer—did in fact have her rights violated under Section 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Irish law only allows for an abortion if there is a substantial risk to the life of the expectant mother. The third woman, known as “C”, successfully argued that not only did she fear her pregnancy would cause a relapse of cancer, but she was also concerned about a risk to the foetus if she carried the child to term and claimed that she could not access clear medical advice on the issue in Ireland.

The court agreed that C was unduly forced to travel for the abortion because medical help was ineffective in this case. Irish law creates a “chilling” threat of life in jail for doctors if they were to order an abortion and later found to be wrong, it said.

The European Court of Human Rights criticised the Irish government for its unclear information regarding lawful abortion, as well as its breach of respect for C’s private life because of this legal failure.

All three women in the case argued that the process was unnecessarily expensive, complicated and traumatic.

Abortion Rights is disappointed that the ECHR has failed to recognise the legitimate claims of all three women involved in this case, but welcomes the court’s acknowledgement that C’s physical health was endangered by her experience of Ireland’s draconian abortion laws.

Thousands of women from the Republic of Ireland are forced to travel abroad to seek safe abortions every year at great financial, emotional and physical cost. We call on the Irish government to introduce legislation to ensure that their citizens are able to access safe, legal abortion when they need it.

Read the ECHR press release here