Irish Abortion Challenge Hearing This Week

The case of three Irish women who are challenging Ireland’s abortion ban will be heard by the full 17 member chamber of the European Court of Human Rights this week. The three women claim in their lawsuit, ABC v. Ireland, that their well-being and health was threatened by Ireland’s restrictive laws that prevent abortion in almost every circumstance except when a woman’s life is in jeopardy. Due to the stigma associated with abortion, the women have chosen to remain anonymous and are referred to as A, B, and C in court documents.

All three women traveled to England to have an abortion. Annually, more than 7,000 women travel from Ireland to obtain legal and safe abortions elsewhere. The Irish Family Planning Association, which represents the women, argue that the necessity to travel to obtain safe and legal abortion is direct discrimination based on sex and financial status. They charge that their human rights were violated under the European Convention of Human Rights’ “Articles 2 (Right to Life), 3 (Prohibition of Torture), 8 (Right to Respect for Family and Private Life) and 14 (Prohibition of Discrimination).”

In 2007, a similar case brought to the same Court by a Polish woman resulted in the court instructing Poland to change its abortion laws, according to the Irish Times.

Historically, there has been strong opposition within largely Roman Catholic Ireland to legalizing abortion. Abortion is criminalized in Ireland by an 1861 law that prohibits “unlawfully procur[ing] a miscarriage” and threatens life imprisonment. In the 1992 ‘X Case’, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that abortion is allowable only when the woman’s life is substantially at risk, according to the Irish Independent.


Irish Independent 12/7/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 7/10/09; Irish Times 4/21/09; Irish Family Planning Association

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