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Irish Abortion Ban Violates Women's Rights to Medical Care, Court Rules

Irish Abortion Ban Violates Women's Rights to Medical Care, Court Rules

December 16, 2010 — The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that Ireland's constitutional abortion ban violates the rights of pregnant women to receive proper medical care if continuing their pregnancies would endanger their lives, the AP/New York Times reports.

Ireland has long resisted pressure to extend limited abortion rights to women whose lives are threatened by their pregnancies. Women's health advocates hope the new judgment will lead the Irish government to finally address the issue.

In a separate 1992 case, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that abortion should be legal if the life of the woman was in danger, including in cases involving threats of suicide. The Supreme Court also said it was legal to travel abroad to obtain an abortion. Although Ireland passed a law that year permitting women to travel to other countries to obtain abortions, it has refused to enact a law defining the rules for when abortions are permitted on medical grounds.

Details of Human Rights Case

The case before the Human Rights Court was brought by the Irish Family Planning Association on behalf of three women who alleged that Ireland failed to protect their rights to health and well-being under terms of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court ruled against two of the plaintiffs who it said did not demonstrate that their pregnancies threatened their health. According to the AP/Times, one of the women "didn't want to become a single mother," while the other "had four other children placed in state care."

The third plaintiff was a woman with cancer who was successfully fighting the disease with chemotherapy and feared that her pregnancy would lead to a relapse. Although her doctors also supported an abortion, none was willing to authorize the procedure, she testified (AP/New York Times, 12/16).