Council of Europe Urges Action to Guarantee Constitutional Right to Abortion
Monday, 10 December 2012
Today (10.12.12), the Council of Europe issued its most strongly worded response to the Irish Government in relation to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of A, B and C v Ireland.
The Council of Europe urged the Government to expedite the implementation of the judgment.
Two years almost to the day since the Court issued its ruling, the Council of Europe “noted with satisfaction” that the Irish Government’s expert group has issued its report in relation to implementing A, B and C v Ireland.
The Council of Europe welcomed the Government’s commitment to decide what action will be taken and to announce this by the end of the current Dáil term on 20th December.
Niall Behan, IFPA CEO, said: “The Council of Europe has sent a strong message to the Government that it expects substantive measures to implement the judgment. And it is clear from the Government’s expert group’s report that legislation to remove the criminal provisions of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act is necessary to fulfil the requirements of the Court of Human Rights.”
According to the expert group report, termination of a pregnancy must be accessible when there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life regardless of whether the risk arises on physical or mental health grounds. The report also states that the decision to proceed with a termination in cases of risk to life must always be the woman’s.
Niall Behan said: “When the Committee of Ministers reconvenes in March next year to examine Ireland’s progress in giving effect to the right to life-saving abortion, they will expect to see legislation and workable guidelines in place. Nothing less will satisfy the requirement of the European Court of Human Rights or give the required legal certainty to women and doctors who are faced with pregnancies involving risk to a woman’s life.”
Contact: Martina Quinn, DHR Communications, Tel: 087-6522033
Notes to Editors:
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is the body that monitors the implementation of rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Committee of Ministers is taking particular interest in the A, B and C case and monitors the implementation of the judgment under its enhanced – rather than standard – supervision procedures. The Committee will revisit the case in March 2013.
The full text of the Council of the Committee of Ministers can be found here:
About A, B & C v Ireland:
In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its verdict in the case of A, B and C v Ireland − a landmark challenge to Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. The Court found that Ireland’s highly restrictive abortion laws violate women’s human rights and that abortion, when a woman’s life is at risk, should be lawfully available in Ireland.
The Court unanimously found that Ireland’s failure to give effect to the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland when a woman’s life is at risk violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The decision reaffirmed the Supreme Court X Case judgment of 1992.
The case was taken by three women, supported by the IFPA, who travelled abroad for abortion services. They argued that the criminalisation of abortion services in Ireland jeopardised their health and wellbeing, in violation of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was heard before the Court’s Grand Chamber of 17 judges, which is reserved to hear cases that raise serious questions affecting the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Expert Group on Abortion 2012
The expert group reported in late November 2012. The report outlines four options:
1) Non-Statutory guidelines;
2) Statutory Regulations on “the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation to empower the Minister for Health to regulate the area by statutory instrument”;
3) Legislation Alone: “Regulate the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation”;
4) Legislation plus Regulations: “Regulate the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation, with certain matters left to the Minister for Health to regulate by way of secondary legislation.”
The Government has outlined the timeline for implementation of the expert group’s recommendations. According to the report, “the Government will make a decision by the end of the current parliamentary term, due to finish on 20 December 2012, on the option to be pursued to implement the judgment.” In addition, the Committee on Health and Children will hold public hearings on the implementation of the option chosen for three days in January 2013.