Ireland might be forced to face abortion issue

December 17, 2010 § Leave a comment


European Court of Human Rights

When it comes to human rights, life gets complicated. Someone being able to exercise their human rights might have a negative impact on the human rights of someone else – and thus the neverending debates around the subject.

In the case of Ireland an importance ruling for women was made this week – the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Irish abortion laws violated the rights of women.

Controversy surrounds the case, which is slightly more complicated than it sounds – three women took the case to the ECHR, and only one woman was ruled to have had her human rights breached.

The key piece of information however is that the Irish government is likely to now be forced to introduce new legislation.

According to the BBC’s Irish Correspondant, Mark Simpson: “Changing the law would also be a political minefield. Ireland is bitterly divided over abortion, and the Irish government has plenty of other priorities at present with the financial crisis and a general election early next year.

“The European Court ruling means Ireland must now reconsider its abortion legislation. The current government will be in no rush to do so.”

Of course a cynic might point out that addressing unwanted pregnancies could form a key part of the country’s economic policy, but its not economy that makes the Ireland government avoid touching this issue with a barge pole: its religion. And that’s far more complicated to address.

The key part of this case is how the women described that they felt stigmatised and humiliated by not being entitled to an abortion, and all three said they had suffered medical complications on travelling to Britain.

The court described the Irish medical system and courts as inadequate to considering the real effect on women’s health. The system is not fit for purpose – abortion is currently only allowed if it will endanger the woman’s life. But what, exactly, will that entail? Do they consider the physiological effects on the morther? Not adequately enough, according to yesterday’s ruling. It took a referendum in 1983 to establish that the mother’s right to life was equal to that out of the child.

So, for now, abortion remains illegal in Ireland – along with large parts of South America, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa. It is, however, the only major country in Europe to maintain its anti-abortion laws (the only others being the Vatican City and Malta), and that’s interesting in itself: the rest of European countries have policies to address the seissue for the good of their women. Ireland must stop hedging away from this issue.

But, the pressure is rising, and it looks as though their might be a time in sight where women don’t have to make the distressing trip to another country and endanger their physical and mental health.

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