Council of Europe welcomes Government commitment to abortion legislation

ECHR found in 2010 that Ireland was in breach of Convention on Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights: ruled in 2010 that Ireland was in breach of the Convention on Human Rights. Photograph: Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights: ruled in 2010 that Ireland was in breach of the Convention on Human Rights. Photograph: Getty Images

Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 11:35

The Council of Europe has welcomed the Government’s commitment to enact new abortion legislation by the end of July, describing it as “an important step” towards implementation of the European Court of Human Rights’ ABC judgment.

In a ruling published this morning, the Strasbourg-based institution said it noted with satisfaction “the significant progress made” by Ireland and encouraged the authorities to continue their efforts to ensure full compliance with the judgment.

In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found that the Irish State was in breach of the Convention on Human Rights, following a case taken by three Irish women, known as ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’.

The court found that there had been a violation of article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights in relation to applicant C. The applicant had become unintentionally pregnant while being treated for cancer, but was unable to find a doctor willing to determine whether her life would be at risk if she continued to full term. She travelled to England for an abortion. The court found that there had been no violation of the convention in relation to applicants A and B.

The Government submitted an ‘action plan’ to the Council of Ministers last month ahead of this week’s meeting of the Council’s Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg.

The committee meets about four times a year to consider outstanding judgments.

Among the documents submitted by the Government was a copy of the Government’s draft abortion legislation, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013, which was approved on April 30th. The Bill proposes to legalise abortion where there is a threat to the life of the mother due to the threat of suicide.

The European Court of Human Rights is an institution of the Council of Europe, and is responsible for enforcing the European Convention on Human Rights. The ABC case is one of the most high-profile outstanding judgments of the court.

While countries are obliged to abide by ECHR judgments, the Council of Europe cannot implement sanctions on countries.

One of the most famous Irish cases to come before the court was the 1988 Norris V Ireland case, which led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland.

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