European Court Rules Woman’s Human Rights Were Violated in Being Denied Abortion in Ireland

One of the reasons for opposition the European Union was the ability of EU courts to dictate social policies within different countries. This issue is likely to come to a head for some critics with the ruling this week by the European Court of Human Rights that Irish abortion laws violate the rights of a woman seeking abortions in Britain.

At issue was a Lithuanian woman who was in remission for cancer and unaware of her pregnancy. She had to leave Ireland and travel to England, which she claimed put her life at risk. However, her lawyers later said that that was not true.

Protecting the life of the mother is an exception under Irish law. However, the government has not implemented legislation guaranteeing such protections after a 1992 ruling of the Supreme Court.

Two other women challenged the constitutional ban but had their cases dismissed. Notably, the court ruled that these women could not challenge the law because it was protecting “public morals.” This is one of the guarantees made to those who opposed the jurisdiction of the EU courts — to maintain the right of nations to enforce their own morality legislation. The two women expressed a simply desire not to have additional children. One woman was described as “a former alcoholic whose four children were in care [who]her pregnancy would prevent her getting her children back” and the other was a woman who took “a morning-after pill [and] was told by doctors the drug had failed and she ran the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The government had argued that the law reflected the “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”.

The Strasbourg court found that the one woman did face a violation of her human rights by being forced to travel while noting that the woman could receive medical counseling and treatment before and after the procedure. The Court specifically criticized Ireland for leaving the right of mother’s unclear. It found that woman should have received an abortion in Ireland as a matter of medical urgency.

Source: Sky

Jonathan Turley

36 thoughts on “European Court Rules Woman’s Human Rights Were Violated in Being Denied Abortion in Ireland”

  1. What Buddha said…Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a must read. She published it as science fiction in 1985 and Wikipedia describes it thus; ‘Set in the near future, in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency.’

    a totalitarian theocracy, you know, like the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the USA….

  2. Tony Sidaway 1, December 16, 2010 at 10:25 am
    Thank you for this info…are you a Brit in the US? You know alot about life across the pond…

  3. The government had argued that the law reflected the “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”.
    Those mores, of necessity I would argue, have changed.

  4. Annie, in this case what was breached was the woman’s right to respect for her private life. Abortion in the circumstances described is lawful under a health exception to the Irish constitution, but the law does not provide any way to implement it. Her cancer was in remission and she feared that the pregnancy would bring it back, but if a doctor had confirmed this likelihood but later found to be in error the doctor would have faced imprisonment. And so she had to travel to Britain to have her abortion (travelling for this purpose is lawful in Ireland).

  5. Swarthmore mom,

    I apologize for my difficulties with words.

    The beginning of the second sentence of third from the end paragraph of my prior posting, “These, in my lifelong observations, include…” might wisely be upgraded to, “These, in my lifelong observations, include, and are not limited to…”

    I had no intention of providing an all-inclusive list of religious traditions which are based on primacy of conscience instead of primacy of ancient dogma and or leadership infallibility, or such.

    My personal difficulty with dogma(s) is my observation that, no matter how diligently a dogma is constructed, the process of existence (things happening that never exactly happened before) tends to obsolete any dogma, no matter how carefully crafted the dogma was when first established.

    My observation, that dogmas tend to be obsoleted by events that happen after the dogma is made, is itself not a dogma.

  6. Excuse the sarcasm, but of course we members of the reality-based community are always pathetically grateful when we encounter people whose imaginary friends are as enlightened as, well, as many people are who lack the gift of being able to ascribe all moral good to an invisible person who agrees with them. Religion is not the only framework for irrational beliefs,but it is one of the most deep-seated and privileged sources of irrational belief. Such beliefs kill and enslave women around the globe, and most horrifyingly in doing so they proclaim there actions to be the will of a being whom it would be an act of evil to resist.

    “Good” religion is as irrational as the dogma it opposes, and is still dangerous because it supports the same mechanism and only decries the results. The very fact that we can recognise and oppose evil resulting from “divine inspiration” disproves the mechanism. Replace that with reason and conscience, and all you have left of religion is a crutch.

  7. J. Brian Harris: I agree, but I think you can include some congregations of reform Jews in that group.

  8. There are, as I observe, people whose “strict adherence” to some particular aggregations of religious “teachings” (in the sense of an established religious activity) leads them to denigrate other people.

    There are also, as I observe, people whose “strict adherence” to contrasting aggregations of religious teachings leads them into affirming the diversity of life in its observable fullness.

    Many people I know and have known are of the former classification; people whose life experiences have, so I conjecture, traumatized them into self-disrespect extending allthe way to self-hatred, and belief that life is a competitive phenomenon.

    Some people I know and have known are of the latter classification; people who are seriously bereft of religious prejudices, people who welcome all people as being valid humans.

    I am a member, to the limit of my practicable ability, of the latter classification. My dad’s mom and dad were both ordained clergy circa 1900, in an “establishment church” (The Congregational Churches started in North America by the people of the Mayflower Compact) and my family orientation is essentially modern pilgrim, not puritan, though the puritans outnumbered the pilgrims for a while.

    The pilgrims never burned “witches”; the puritans did, and so I cannot be a puritan type.

    Were to be making the rules, women, boys, men, girls, people not women or boys or men or girls (there are many such, so I note), sea slugs, viruses of all sorts, and distant stars and planets, all would be at parity with one another without prejudice.

    There are established religions which have only a form of primacy of conscience as the essence of their structure. These, in my lifelong observations, include some Unitarian-Universalist congregations, some United Church of Christ congregations, some congregations of the Congregational Christian Churches which did not participate in the national merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church with the Congregational Christian Churches.

    I find it inaccurate to toss into one group both established religions and established religious traditions which use hierarchical authoritarian dogmatic tyranny and established religions and established religious traditions which reject, as a basis organizing principle, hierarchical authoritarian dogmatic tyranny.

    The belief that people make mistakes which they could have and should have avoided is, to me, a religious dogma which I categorically, albeit skeptically, reject.

  9. Tony,
    I agree that strict adherence to religion seems to always involve women losing or not gaining equal rights. I guess if it is men making the rules they want to keep the power in the hands of club members.

  10. Rafflaw, I should qualify my statement about the Catholic church. Uniquely in the UK the Province of Northern Ireland, the part of the island of Ireland that is not part of the Republic, has no legal abortion. There are exceptions to the criminal law only where the woman’s health is serious danger, but otherwise it’s the same as in the Republic,

    This despite the majority of the population in Northern Ireland being Protestant. There is not enough support in the Assembly to change the law in line with the rest of the UK, and when the Province was ruled from Westminster the politics of the region deterred Parliament from acting. The issue is perhaps as controversial there as it is in the United States.

    I think this is down to the way religion is taken very seriously in both the Republic and the Province. Church attendance is high in both, compared to the very secular England where church attendance is quite rare. Irrespective of denomination, religion has an overwhelmingly negative effect on women’s rights.

  11. pete: They could do it through supreme court appointments. All of George W. Bush’s appointments were anti-choice. All of the potential republican presidential candidates are anti-choice.

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