Ireland’s abortion laws upheld by European court

Ireland’s ban on abortion has been upheld today by the European Court of Human Rights in a case brought by three Irish women.

The women argued that the lack of access to abortion in Ireland breaches their human rights.

Earlier today the court ruled that a nation may define for itself protections afforded to life and said there is no Convention “right” to abortion.


The case centred on articles in the European Convention on Human Rights on discrimination and the right to life and health.

The three women who brought the case claim that their inability to have an abortion damaged their health.


One of the women had run the risk of ectopic pregnancy; another had other children placed in care because she was unable to cope; and a third who suffered from a rare form of cancer claimed a pregnancy could cause a relapse.

The court dismissed the claims of the first two women, but upheld the third woman’s claim that she should have been able to obtain a lawful abortion in Ireland because her life was at risk.

In 1983, citizens of Ireland voted to put a pro-life amendment into the constitution giving equal rights to life to both the mother and the unborn.


The constitution currently states: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

The Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life legal group, had intervened in the case. ADF lawyer Roger Kiska said: “The court was right to reassert that there is no right to abortion under the Convention, but it’s regrettable that Ireland lost on the third count despite such a lack of judicial record, physician consultation, or recourse to Irish courts.

He added: “We will be closely monitoring the effect of that portion of the decision.”

He also commented: “No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless, and no one should force any sovereign nation to give up its right to protect life in its constitution if it so chooses”.

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