In the News 2010

Pro-choice campaigners hail ruling


The ruling by European judges that the abortion ban violated the rights of a woman who feared a cancer relapse during an unplanned pregnancy has been hailed as a “landmark” by pro-choice campaigners.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Government failed to give domestic courts clear direction on when abortion is legal and that under Irish law a doctor faced the “chilling” threat of life in jail if he or she ordered an abortion and was later found to be wrong.

Niall Behan, Irish Family Planning Association chief executive, said the ruling was a landmark for Ireland and, in particular, for women and girls.

“We don’t need another constitutional referendum, nor do we need any further court judgments,” Mr Behan said.

Julie Kay, lead legal counsel for the women involved in the ruling, said: “For decades the state has ignored its legal responsibility and has turned a blind eye to protecting the life and health of women in such dire circumstances. No other woman in a life-threatening situation should be forced to endure the uncertainty, humiliation and distress that applicant C in the European Court of Human Rights case did when faced with a threat to her life and health.”

Tracey McNeill, vice-president of Marie Stopes International, said: “What we would like to see in the future is Irish women having the same fundamental rights to choose as people in the rest of Europe.”

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics For Choice, said politicians have been too willing to bow to rules of the conservative Catholic hierarchy: “It’s time to recognise that the bishops don’t speak for the Irish people, Catholic or non-Catholic, who know women need access to comprehensive healthcare, and that includes abortion.”

Sinead Ahern, Choice Ireland spokeswoman, said: “It is effectively an instruction to the Irish Government that it must legislate for the X case. Any further delay will only result in yet more women having to take the state to court to vindicate their rights.”

All-Ireland Primate Cardinal Sean Brady said the judgment leaves future policy in protecting the lives of unborn children in the hands of the Irish. He said it raises profound moral and legal issues requiring careful analysis and reflection.

“The direct destruction of an innocent human life can never be justified, however difficult the circumstances,” Cardinal Brady said. “We are always obliged to act with respect for the inherent right to life of both the mother and the unborn child in the mother’s womb.”

This article originally appeared in the Belfast Telegraph.

Catholics for Choice