Abortion and the law

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 01:08

Sir, – William Binchy writes that the abortion debate has been compromised by politics (“UN committee’s view on abortion contradicts core ethical value of human rights”, Opinion & Analysis, August 18th).This is true. In a changing world of cultural diversity and values, what can one expect? The European Court of Human Rights is not a federal court, but a supervisory court which supervises the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights by the member states. And this is about 47 member states with varying cultures, languages and traditions. 

A classic example of the politics of human rights is well illustrated by the AB and C case v Ireland case in December 2010. Two of the applicants sought an abortion on the grounds of their health being in danger, and not their “lives”, and were refused an abortion. The court’s grand chamber held that there was no violation of the convention by Ireland. Yet in 35 other member states, A and B would have been given an abortion. The decision went against the European consensus.  

If politics is the art of compromise , well this it. – Yours, etc,  


Beggars Bush Court,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – If William Binchy was one of the three professionals who had to make the decision about delivering a baby before term, I wonder which of the following options he might have chosen: 1. Deliver the baby right on the cusp of viability (as happened) with the high risk of permanent harm to the child due to the premature birth (brain damage, eye sight, lung function, etc). 2. Wait until there was evidence that the woman was close to dying (through the self-harm she had threatened) and then make the decision to deliver the baby no matter what stage of the pregnancy she was at (and try to save the woman too). 3. Put the woman on a forced drip-feed (and security detail) so that she stayed alive with the baby being nourished to term, as is its human right; then deliver the baby and arrange for counselling, adoption, social service supports, etc, for both baby and mother. A fourth choice (not currently available) would be to give the woman access to a legal and safe abortion before 12 weeks. But then Mr Binchy doesn’t have to make any of these choices (or take responsibility for them). He only has to write about them. – Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park East,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Prof Binchy advises that those of us concerned about Ireland’s international reputation should closely scrutinise the argument that Ireland should change its Constitution to comply with its international human rights obligations. By framing the question of whether or not a woman should have the right to choose to terminate her pregnancy as one concerning solely the right to life of the unborn, Prof Binchy utilises a familiar argument: are you in favour of denying an innocent child the right to life? Clearly, the answer must be no. It is an effective argument and, through repetition and reinforcement, Prof Binchy would have us believe that women have no place in the debate whatsoever.