Friday, December 17, 2010
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled yesterday in the Case of AB & C v. Ireland that Ireland is violating the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) by forcing women to go abroad to obtain abortions when there is a risk to their life. Irish law prohibits abortions under all circumstances, despite the fact that the Irish Supreme Court ruled in the X Case in 1992 that an abortion may be obtained if the mother's life is in danger.
The successful applicant in the instant case is a Lithuanian woman residing in Ireland. She had been receiving chemotherapy treatments for three years for cancer when she learned she was pregnant. Concerned about her own health and life and that of the fetus, she ultimately decided to obtain an abortion. She traveled to England to do so and suffered complications upon her return to Ireland.
The ECtHR found that Ireland's abortion restrictions are legitimate laws aimed at the protection of morals within the meaning of ECHR Article 8(2). However, the Court ruled that when there is a risk to a woman's life, Ireland's abortion ban violates a woman's right to be free from unjustified governmental interference with her right to privacy under Article 8 of the Convention, which is defined broadly to include personal autonomy and development, and more specifically, decisions regarding pregnancy. See Pretty v. UK; Vo v. France.