Irish Women take abortion demand to Brussels

The (London-based) Independent covers thy story of three Irish women (backed by the IFPA) taking their case to the European parliament in their quest to liberalise current legislation.

  • Setanta

    I thought that any appellant to the European Court of Human Rights had to exhaust the legal process in their own countries first. Is thsi still the case or has the rules on petitioning the ECHR changed recently?

    Either way the Independent seems to be unaware that the Court cannot ‘… force the government in Dublin to amend laws barring abortion …’ given that any changes would necessitate a constitutional referendum. And this is the very last thing that any party in the Republic wants.

  • setanta

    Got the answer – from

    “You must have used all the remedies in the State concerned that might have been able to redress the situation you are complaining about (usually, this will mean an application to the appropriate court, followed by an appeal, where applicable, and even a further appeal to a higher court such as the supreme court or constitutional court, if there is one).”

    Does this mean that the IFPA campaign is little more than a gimmick?

  • Peter Brown

    If the IFPA wins the European case, presumably the ruling will apply to the North as well? Check out McCann’s take in last night’s Telegraph.

    Derry Seaman

    11 August 2005
    The announcement of a new campaign on abortion in the South prompts me to wonder what’s become of the abortion issue up here.

    In Dublin on Tuesday, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) launched a 13-point plan to achieve legalisation of abortion, under the motto “Safe and Legal in Ireland”.

    The campaign aims at the removal of Article 40.3.3 from the Republic’s Constitution, inserted by the 1983 “pro-life” referendum. It will also be supporting three Irish women who have had abortions abroad and who are taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that their human rights were breached by their not being allowed have abortions in their own country.

    Said IFPA chairperson Catherine Forde: “This campaign is all about ending the hypocrisy of exiling women in crisis pregnancy that choose to have an abortion”.

    It was the same thinking which led the Family Planning Association (FPA) in the North to go to court in May 2001 seeking clarification of the legal position.

    The Department of Health already accepted that abortion was lawful here in certain circumstances – but wouldn’t spell out clearly what these circumstances were. This had resulted, said the FPA, in “confusing and inconsistent” medical practice.

    Forty women a week were leaving the North to have abortions across the water.

    The Department fought the case, arguing, in effect, that the situation was clear enough.

    The case trundled its way through the courts until November last year when the Court of Appeal made an order which didn’t give the FPA all it wanted but required the Department to examine whether abortion provision was “adequate” and to issue guidelines on provision for the future.

    To organise delivery of these requirements, the Department established a working group, with members including the director of child and community care, the chief medical officer, the chief nursing officer, the head of midwifery at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Service, the Departmental solicitor and three senior representatives of the family policy unit. It held its first meeting on January 21 last.

    What’s clear from the minutes is that nothing was clear.

    The first suggestion made was “to carry out an audit of existing service provision so that we could have a picture of what was being provided.”

    Now, many might have thought that the Department would already have had available a picture of what it was providing, that could be collated from records, even called up on screen. But apparently not. There followed a discussion of how to go about discovering what was being provided – “what might constitute a valid GP sample across Northern Ireland,” for example.

    This wasn’t an exercise in checking or updating or filling in detail. It was primary research.

    How then, one wonders, was the Department so confident back in May 2001 that there was nothing in the demand from the FPA for clear guidelines that it fought a three-and-half year battle to defend the status quo (whatever it was) in the courts?

    As for the requirement for guidelines: “The group agreed to hold a workshop in approximately six to seven weeks time. The purpose of the workshop would be to explore ideas on who might need guidance and what such guidance should contain, and then decide how best to take this work forward.”

    It was also agreed “to confine the workshop to the health professionals selected within the Department, boards and trusts.” And, “to ask the four directors of public health to act as facilitators for the workshop.”

    No bolshie feminists in boots, then.

    Anyway, the workshop hasn’t happened yet.

    Which brings us to the next meeting of the group.

    “It was agreed that the next meeting of the departmental working group would be arranged after the workshop.”

    Forty women continue to leave the North for abortions across the water every week.

    “Safe and Legal in Ireland” is the slogan of the campaign launched in Dublin.

    Shouldn’t we join in?

  • ib2016

    Surely the abortion laws have been referred to every court in Ireland longsince, plus referendum after referendum etc.

    Congratulions to Labour for taking the matter up. I genuinely don’t have a very strong point of view on when abortion is right or wrong and would leave it to the medical profession but abortions are going to happen and better that we don’t encourage backstreet abortion.

    I hope Sinn Fein and the rest can leave it to a free vote. This is not a matter for party politics

  • Setanta

    Quote: ‘Surely the abortion laws have been referred to every court in Ireland longsince, plus referendum after referendum etc.’

    Take a look at the ECHR site. It states that you cannot bring a case to the court with a general claim that a law breaches the Convention or is unfair. The case must be taken by an individual, or their representative, who believes that their rights have been infinged, and the individual must have exhausted the legal processes in a member state beforehand.

    I’m not arguing the merits or otherwise of abortion. I’m pointing out that there appears to be a certain amount of disingenuousness in teh IFPA position that they can simply take a case directly to the Court.

  • Gummo Marx

    I am absolutely opposed to killing the unborn and I think that pro-choicers should use their energy, instead, to empower women not to conceive when they don’t want to, in the way of the rest of the population.

  • Alan McDonald


    What does in the way of the rest of the population mean in the context of empower women not to conceive? Here in the USA, the anti-choice crowd are also anti-contraception.

    BTW, how are the rest of your brothers?

  • Gummo Marx

    I’m pro-contraception and anti-abortion. Most people don’t have abortions; they can choose to conceive or not to conceive.

    The energies of pro choicers should be directed to stopping the conception, thereby avoiding abortion.

  • Gummo Marx

    By the way, me and the brothers ain’t too hot.

  • Alan McDonald


    Did you ever hear of a group called Planned Parenthood? Here in the United States, they were (and still are) the leaders in promoting contraception, which wasn’t fully legal until the 1960’s. They are regularly attacked by the anti-abortion forces.

  • Gummo Marx


    I’ve never heard of it but, having checked out the website, I’m not surprised they’re not drinking buddies with pro-lifers.

  • Daisy

    “Most people don’t have abortions; they can choose to conceive or not to conceive.”

    Yes, it really is that simple! In a nutshell – blame the woman. Typical misogyny on display once more.

  • Alan McDonald


    Don’t be too hard on Gummo. He’s correct when he says that Most people don’t have abortions, since almost half of all people are men.

  • bertie

    It’s not mysogny to point out that it is women who conceive. I’m a fool if I let someone plant something in my front garden, if I dont want it flowering and if I beleive that a casual co horticulturalist will be as concerned about the consequences as I would.

  • Daisy

    “It’s not mysogny to point out that it is women who conceive. “

    Newsflash! Women conceive! Men have nothing to do with it and therefore have no responsibility for contraception! Contraception never fails! Contraception prevents all unwanted pregnancies! It’s all the fault of those blasted wimmin!

    End Newsflash!

  • Gummo Marx


    Instead of hissy-fitting, tell us calmly what your view is.

  • aquifer

    With alcohol the commonest date rape drug, failure to provide safe local abortion services victimises the poor, the young, and the vulnerable.

    In the longer term it also risks inbreeding brutes.

  • Daisy

    “Instead of hissy-fitting, tell us calmly what your view is.”

    My view is that there is always an element of misogyny on display during any debate on abortion. My view is that those who demand that women control themselves (and if they can’t, then control their fertility through contraception), damn women who choose to terminate when things don’t go according to plan. My view is that men are treated differently when it comes to matters of conception/contraception (their behaviour being excused in a “typical man” kind of way) and that this is hypocritical. My view is that people shouldn’t be so quick to judge without knowing all the facts.

  • Gummo Marx

    I seem what you mean but, Daisy, you’ll have to allow into your world that fact that there are enough men out there who apply the same high standards to themselves that they expect from women.

    We aren’t all mysognistic fly-by-nights.

  • Gummo Marx

    Also Daisy, by tarring all men with the same brush, you invite being tarred with another.

  • Daisy

    “you’ll have to allow into your world that fact that there are enough men out there who apply the same high standards to themselves that they expect from women.”

    Fantastic. Presumably they therefore know that things don’t always go according to plan and that sometimes hard choices have to be made and that being judgemental doesn’t help.

    “by tarring all men with the same brush, you invite being tarred with another.”

    Perhaps you’d like to point out where I said all men. I know many men support a woman’s right to take control of her own life and make decisions for herself; sometimes they even help in the decision making process in a constructive, non judgemental way.

  • Alan McDonald

    On the issue of availability of contraceptives in the US, please see this article (Pharmacists’ moral beliefs vs. women’s legal rights) from the April 26, 2004 edition of the Christian Science Monitor. I’m guessing from Gummo’s comments that pro-life forces in Europe are satisfied with stopping abortions and don’t go after contraceptives as well.

  • Gummo Marx

    “I’m guessing from Gummo’s comments that pro-life forces in Europe are satisfied with stopping abortions and don’t go after contraceptives as well.”

    I couldn’t begin to give you the ratio but I’m sure there many pro-lifers who are either pro or anti-contraception. I’m pro-life, pro-contraception.

  • Gummo Marx


    I’ve already said that I’m pro-life, pro-contraception and, in terms of judgementality, I think everyone’s judgmental whether they claim to be or not.

    You say: “things don’t always go according to plan”. I believe we can make them do just that – if I can do that, anyone can.

  • Alan McDonald


    Let me ask the question this way:

    To your knowledge, is there an active movement in Ireland or Britain or on the continent that is trying to block women’s access to contraceptives as there is here in the US?

  • Gummo Marx

    None that I’m aware of Alan – abortion’s the only issue getting the occasional headline.

  • Alan McDonald


    Thanks for the feedback. There is logic in the position that universal availability of contraceptives will reduce the number of abortions. The opposition to contraceptives by anti-abortion forces in the US promotes the view that the movement is anti-woman.

  • Printemps

    Alan, there was a Newsline report which showed that emergency contraception was not available at a number of casualty units in Northern Ireland. I see that this is blocking a woman’s right to contraception, although the hospitals concerned were sheepish enough to admit they would ‘review their policies.’

    Universal availability of contraception will sadly not stop abortion. People don’t know that contraception has failed and people who don’t plan on having sex are often those who end up pregnant/impregnating someone.

  • Alan McDonald

    For the latest on the anti-contraception battle in the USA, see FDA delays decision on morning-after pill. The delaying action by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is clearly designed to placate the anti-abortion forces that say Over-the-counter ‘morning-after pill’ would be a public health hazard and Planned Parenthood eyes windfall from morning-after pill.