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Europe saved from forced acceptance of abortion

European Court of Human Rights judgment in Irish case reaffirms that European Convention on Human Rights contains no ‘right’ to abortion

STRASBOURG, France — The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights Thursday reaffirmed that the European Convention on Human Rights contains no “right” to abortion. The case, A, B, and C v. Ireland, has been dubbed by many as “the Roe v. Wade of Europe” because a loss would have meant that all countries in the Council of Europe must allow abortion or face large financial penalties in damages if ever sued.

ADF attorneys defended Ireland’s legal protections for pre-born children on behalf of the Family Research Council against three women who sued to have the country’s constitutional amendment protecting innocent life abolished. Because the lawsuit was decided in the Grand Chamber of the ECHR, the judgment is binding on all lower chambers and member states, making it a pivotal case.

“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,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “In this case, the court wisely upheld that right as it has done in the past. The stakes were clearly high for all of Europe, but also for other Western nations, such as the U.S., because their courts often closely watch how European courts are ruling.”

Three women in Ireland sued under the European Convention on Human Rights to overturn the country’s legal protections for pre-born children. The three, who never went to any doctor or court in Ireland but went directly to Britain to obtain their abortions, fought to establish a “right” to abortion in Ireland. The women also sought a precedent that would open the door to abortion as a right across all of Europe under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court dismissed the claims of two of the three women. In the remaining woman’s situation, the court found that Ireland should provide a more clear procedure to determine risk to the life of the mother and therefore access to abortion rather than requiring a person in her situation to file a legal action with regard to the country’s constitution. She was awarded 15,000 euros in monetary damages.

“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,” Kiska said. “We will be closely monitoring the effect of that portion of the decision.”

ADF and FRC filed a joint brief in November 2008 with two other pro-life organizations at the court’s request after it allowed the groups to intervene as defendants in the case.  Article 40.3.3 of Ireland’s constitution reads, “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.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.