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19 September 2011

The Irish Government must prioritise action in its response to the landmark abortion judgment at the European Court of Human Rights, according to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers.

Members of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers convened last week at special human rights meeting in Strasburg to examine, among other issues, the Government’s proposed measures to implement the judgment in the A, B & C v Ireland case delivered by the European Court of Human Rights last December.

In its decision, the Committee of Ministers from 47 different member states “underlined the importance of putting in place substantive measures to execute the judgment”. The Committee also indicated that it will continue to monitor the Government’s implementation of the judgment.

Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “The Council of Ministers have sent a very strong message to the Irish Government that it can no longer ignore the imperative to legislate for abortion in certain circumstances. This decision clearly indicates that the Council of Europe will not be satisfied with yet another expert group whose legislative recommendations can be left to gather dust as was the case of 2000 All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, the 1999 Cabinet Committee and the 1996 Constitution Review Group.

“The Irish Government must now move to restore Ireland’s tarnished human rights reputation by swiftly giving effect to the constitutional right to abortion established 19 years ago in the Supreme Court judgment in the X Case and give legal clarity to women and their doctors on when an abortion may be lawfully available within the State.”

The decision from the Committee of Ministers follows last week’s report from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg, who expressed his concern that “despite the 1992 Supreme Court judgment in the X case, still no legislation is in place to set a framework allowing for abortion in limited circumstances where a woman’s life is deemed to be in danger because of pregnancy, in compliance with domestic case law and the Irish Constitution”.

He also expressed his hope that the Government’s proposed expert group would “speedily fulfil its mandate and that a coherent legal framework including adequate services will be put in place without delay”.

In advance of its meeting last week the Committee of Ministers were furnished with formal submission form both the Irish Family Planning Association and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

Note To Editors:

About A, B & C v Ireland:

In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its verdict in the case of A, B & C v Ireland − a landmark challenge to Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws.

Last December the European Court of Human Rights found that Ireland’s highly restrictive abortion laws violates women’s human rights and that abortion, when a women’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.

About the IFPA

The IFPA is Ireland’s leading sexual health charity. The IFPA offers a comprehensive range of services which promote sexual health and support reproductive choice on a not-for-profit basis, including clinical and counselling services, sexual and reproductive health information, education and training.

In 2010 the IFPA provided pregnancy counselling and advice to 4,740 clients through our pregnancy counselling network of 11 centres and our national pregnancy helpline. These services are offered to women, girls and couples for free and are provided by professional accredited psychotherapists and counsellors.