European Court of Human Rights,30 Jan 2009/Vincent Kessler
Ireland has defended its strict law against abortion at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in a case that could overturn that ban if the judges agree with three women who said it endangered their health and violated their rights. The women, two Irish and one Lithuanian living in Ireland, had travelled to Britain to have abortions because traditionally Catholic Ireland allows the procedure only when the mother’s life is in danger. Read our full story on Wednesday’s hearing here.
The three women, named only as A, B and C, argued they had to terminate their pregnancies due to medical and social problems, and that being forced to travel abroad for abortions meant submitting to inhumane treatment that violated their right to privacy. They also said the law constituted gender-based discrimination.
This has been described as “Europe’s Roe v. Wade case” (here and here) because a Court ruling would be an authoritative interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights to which 47 European states are parties and with which they must comply. “Domestic courts have to apply the Convention,” the ECHR’s FAQ says. “Otherwise, the European Court of Human Rights would find against the State in the event of complaints by individuals about failure to protect their rights.”