The Abortion Debate in Ireland reopens

This morning the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Ireland has failed to legislate for the constitutional right to abortion where the life of the mother is deemed to be at risk.

This case was lodged in 2005 and, as far as I aware, is based on the Irish Supreme Court ruling in the famous 1992 X Case where a judgement was made that an Irish woman had a right to an abortion. A 14 yr old rape victim had been told she could not travel out of the jurisdiction to get an abortion in England. She was reported as being suicidal.

This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court.

Despite the 1983 Eighth Amendment being added to the Irish Constitution to ‘copper-fasten’ Ireland’s prohibition on abortion, the Supreme Court ruling interpreted it as ‘opening the door’ to abortion in the state.

The Amendment to Article 40, s. 3, sub-s. 3 of the 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.”

The X case judgment actually in effect undermined the 1983 Amendment mainly because it was legally ambiguous. The Supreme Court judges were highly critical of Irish Governments failing to legislate since 1983 and leaving things unclear.

So, successive Irish Govts have failed to legislate in light of the 1983 Amendment AND in light of the Supreme Court ruling in 1992. Politicians have been unwilling to touch this poisoned chalice in a country where there has been overwhelming opposition to abortion. If there had been legislation after 1983 and before 1992, the Supreme Court ruling would likely have been different.

Now the European Court of Human Rights has done it for them.

The Irish Times reports that

As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights – now incorporated into Irish law – the Government is obliged to remedy any breaches of the convention.

This is another failure of Irish politics to govern the nation. We have shown we can’t run the country economically, and now it is a European Court which has ruled in favour of abortion in Ireland because Irish politicians have avoided the issue like the plague.


One thought on “The Abortion Debate in Ireland reopens

  1. […] The European Court of Human Rights decided this morning that there are gaps in Ireland’s abortion laws. Undoubtedly a fractious, spiteful and Pharisaical debate will now overtake the nation as a small minority try to force their ideology on a large majority while the spokespeople of the large majority over-react and driven by insecurity undermine their position. We might have another referendum on abortion law. We might actually, in what is an insane worst case scenario, have a kind of abortion law brought in. (For those of you unfamiliar with the strangely ignoble way Ireland remains the only Western nation (along with Malta) without abortion, my elder Patrick has the low-down. […]

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