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The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has, today (4.04.12), expressed concern over the vacuum in services for women with life-threatening pregnancies.  This is in spite of the 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling which found Ireland to be in breach of its human rights obligations in the case of a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy, known as Miss C.

The IFPA raised its concern after it emerged – through a parliamentary question published this week – that the Minister for Health, James O’Reilly, confirmed that – in spite of the 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights – the situation of women with life-threatening pregnancies remains the same as before the ruling. As such, women cannot access life-saving abortion services in Ireland and are required to travel abroad.  No interim measures to deal with this critical situation have been developed since the Court ruling.

The IFPA said that the lack of action on the European Court judgement has also been noted by the Council of Europe.  During its March meeting, the Council expressed concern regarding the current situation of women who believe their lives may be at risk due to their pregnancy.

The Minister admitted, in the PQ response, that the scenarios he outlined were “not deemed satisfactory or appropriate” by the European Court of Human Rights.   

The Council of Europe asked for clarity on how, whilst waiting for measures to implement the judgment fully, the situation of women who find themselves in a similar position to Ms C is currently being addressed.

IFPA Chief Executive Officer, Niall Behan, said: “It took over a year after the judgement for an expert group to be established. It will set out options for the Government in relation to the cases of Ms A, Ms B and Ms C in July of this year. 

“In the meantime, women with life-threatening pregnancies, and their doctors, are still in exactly the same situation as they have been for the last 20 years with no clarity at law, no services in place and no option but to travel to the UK for abortion services. The Council of Europe has made it clear that this is simply unacceptable and has told Ireland that it must stop prevaricating and take prompt action.

“As Minister O’Reilly himself pointed out, the current procedures were examined and found wanting by the European Court of Human Rights. It is inexcusable that the Minister has not introduced interim measures to vindicate the rights of pregnant women whose lives are at risk.

“The Council of Europe has left the Government in no doubt that it is impatient with the pace of implementation thus far. The Government must immediately take clear and decisive action and finally introduce legal and public policy measures to ensure women’s right to abortion in Ireland in the circumstances covered by the A, B and C case that was taken to the European Court of Human Rights,” he added.