Strasbourg challenge on Irish abortion ban has implications for Northern Ireland

At last “the momentous day” has arrived when the mountain of constitutional and legal obstacles to abortion care and counselling in the Republic is being challenged in the Strasbourg Human Rights court. The three women “AB and C” argue that this lack of care and counselling amounts to a violation of their human rights. One of them suffered an ectopic pregnancy.

They also say the lack of any effective legal remedy in Ireland means taking a case in the State would have been costly and futile, and could have forced them to relinquish their anonymity

. A Polish precedent before the court gives encouragement to the reformers. National governments must respond to Strasbourg rulings but in this case it’s hard to imagine the main parties rushing to overhaul the law, possibly reawakening Lisbon treaty nightmares. I’m not clear whether guidelines on abortions elswhere are possible, even if the ruling is favourable. The hearing may well have implications for Northern Ireland, where Lord Justice Girvan recently ordered the withdrawal of long awaited guidelines on abortion care and advice, but recommended a redraft. Critics said he didn’t understand what counselling entailed. Yet whether the Assembly would accept even revised guidelines remains to be seen. Only pressure from the clearest possible ruling on human rights grounds seems likely to create movement. A long legal battle still seems likely, unless Strasbourg obliges and finds legal remedy in the Irish domestic courts inadequate. Noting the possible implications for Northern Ireland, Lord Justice Girvan said.

“The legal position in the Republic of Ireland is even more restricted than in Northern Ireland… The outcome of the Irish case may well have implications for Northern Ireland even though the abortion law in Northern Ireland is governed by the Bourne test which is less restrictive than the test applicable in the Republic


  • EllTee

    What legal obstacles to abortion counselling? There are none. I’ve even seen posters for Cura advertising post-abortion counselling.

    Also, I don’t remember that one of the women actually suffered an ectopic pregnancy – the Irish Times piece only says that she “ran the risk” of one.

    Also, I think people are exaggerating the Polish judgement mentioned. In that case, the petitioner requested an abortion as her pregnancy was affecting her eyesight. An abortion in this circumstance was actually provided for in Polish law, but she was unable to obtain one. The Strasbourg judgement in this case just told the Polish government to make sure that such services were available and didn’t actually necessitate a law change.

  • Only Asking

    At last!!! Irish women may well soon be able to murder their babies too.


  • Danny Boy

    God, it doesn’t take long for the thoughtless cry of ‘baby murderers!’ to be taken up. It’s like a reflex.

    A) An embryo is not a baby. If you believe that every fertilised egg is a human being because your church says so, fine, but your church is not supposed to govern this country.

    B) Just for argument’s sake, let’s imagine that an embryo is a person, just like you. You do not have the right to live inside my body if I don’t want you there. Neither would our imaginary personified embryo.

    C) Our government will not even take organs from the dead, in order to save the lives of other people, without the explicit permission of the deceased. Yet women do not have the right to deny the use of their entire body to a foetus.

    We need to get a grip and stop talking like the 40 women a week who travel from Northern Ireland to buy the abortions they should be getting on the NHS here are nothing to do with us.

  • what’s the fuss?

    Is there any legal barrier to selling the ‘morning after’ pill in Tesco’s and corner shops? Would be a convenient and cheap solution.
    Works for paracodol with hangovers.
    Just keep abortions for those who change their minds later.

  • Danny Boy

    Only pharmacists are allowed to sell the m-a pill at the moment, and they have to ask various questions of the person requesting it. Making it cheaper (£27 for a tablet?!) would make so much sense it’ll probably never happen.

  • what’s the fuss?

    Danny Boy

    Exactly. A vending machine option at £1 a pill would make economic sense surely?

  • Danny Boy

    Not medical sense though, unless a vending machine can assess what other medications people are on, etc.

    It does seem like the next step in the ever-diversifying march of the public toilet vending machine, though! Ever bar bog now seems to dispense not just condoms but knickers, vibrators, headache tablets and mini-toothbrushes. The ladies in the Empire does individually wrapped Femfresh wipes. I don’t know what sort of night they expect people to have but I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

  • igor

    Only asking

    If people like you would only stop impregnating them ………….

  • Toffee Nose

    Abortionists, hookers, smokers, homos are all the good guys. These anonymous trio women attempt to change the will of the people. Typical left wing bullying.

    If they are unhappy with Ireland, they should fuck off. But no. Better to play the subsidised victim.

  • Danny, an embryo is human in as much as the cells contain human type DNA, distinct from the mother’s, and so it is not just another body part.

    From day 13 after fertilisation this mass of human cells undergoes neurulation and can thus experience pain. It does seem somewhat inhumane for society to allow vast sums of pain to be inflicted on the unborn.

  • Danny Boy

    Yeah, and childbirth is painless ; )

  • igor

    “the cells contain human type DNA” takes us back to the Every Sperm Is Sacred nonsense and is complete tripe. On this basis every day you slough off million of skin cells that carry your DNA – do you preserve them? Are they human?

    Also, anything that is non sentient cannot ‘experience’ anything. What you have is a biochemical reaction that fires a neuron. There is no sentient creature to recognise that the neuron has fired.

  • kitkat

    I’d like to see an end to the “Irish solution”.

    Women have abortions and making them safe, legal and obtainable saves lives. Pretending that it doesn’t happen in N.I. (it does- 2 a week in N.I hospitals at the last count) is unhelpful.

    The only people who should be involved in the decision should be the woman concerned and her healthcare team- end of.

    One of the Irish women in Strasbourg was recovering from cancer and on chemotherapy when she became pregnant- ongoing pregnancy risked her own life (by having to stop cancer treatment) and the foetus was almost certainly seriously damaged by the chemo. If SHE wasn’t able to get a quick, legal termoination in Ireland NO-ONE can, and that kind of negates the “risk to the life of the woman” exemption, doesn’t it.

  • TomasPol

    Isn’t it a women’s right to do with her own body what she wants? And isn’t that what consent is? If they become pregnant does that not become a responsibility to the two parties concerned? Rape and incest are crimes so if a women doesn’t give consent then there is legal redress, and these women must be fully supported in this respect, and I will not condemn any women who has an abortion in these circumstances. Nor will I condemn a women whose life is in danger having an abortion but abortion should not be available for those who just will not accept the responsibilty of their actions.

  • The Third Policeman

    Hmm whatever side is right (and I don’t claim to know) I think we should clear up that its ridiculous to say that a woman was denied treatment of an ectopic pregnancy which is a serious, acute, life threatening medical condition. It carries significant mortality rates and I doubt if the word abortion can be applied to treating it. Spurious reporting somewhere along the line I’d say.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Very safe – except for the child

  • Seamus

    Policemna, she wasn’t denied treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. She had taken the Morning After Pill and it hadn’t aborted her child. There is a slight risk in that scenario of an ectopic pregnancy. She didn’t have an ectopic pregnancy. She just thought there was a chance she could have one.

    Or is at least claiming that. With the fact that she used an Abortifacient I would imagine she is a Pro Choice campaigner trying to garner sympathy.

  • Dave

    “Isn’t it a women’s right to do with her own body what she wants?”

    No, because she only has ownership rights to her own life and not to the life of another human being. Even the US Supreme Court in Roe Vs. Wade did not declare that a woman has a right to kill another [i]viable human[/i] being – only the right to kill another human being who is dependent on them for life.

    By the way, how many of those 45 million human beings killed in America since that court case were killed to save the life of the mother? An insignificant fraction of them. In reality, 47% of the 1.21 million abortions that occured in the US in 2005 were to women aged 15-44 have who had at least one previous abortion.

    This sick abortion-on-demand practice has devalued human life to the point where an unborn human being is regarded as having no more rights than a wart which can be removed at will. 123,000 abortions are now carried out every day of the year around the world.

  • Danny Boy

    Yeah right Seamus, only militant pro-choicers ever use emergency contraception. If you think taking the morning after pill is the same thing as having an abortion you must logically think the ordinary contraceptive pill is as well, as one of its functions is also to prevent the implantation of fertilised eggs. So when can we expect your campaign to criminalise the pill, and every woman you know who takes it?

  • arx

    If there is indeed a risk to life then so be it allow the abortion(which is the current law anyway) but if it is to be of convenience then no chance.
    All money out of the states pocket to pay for the mistakes some couple got themself into, if you dont use contraception or even if you did you still have to accept the risks and I’m not about to give sympathy on the basis of choice, you don’t want the baby give it up for adoption.