State urged to expedite plan on abortion


The Government must “expedite” it plans to provide for legal abortion here, the Council of Europe has said. *

In a statement published yesterday, the council reiterated its concern for women whose lives were at risk due to pregnancy and who were unable to ascertain whether they could have their pregnancies terminated in Ireland.

The statement issues from the meeting of the ministers’ deputies (human rights) in Strasbourg last week.

The meeting discussed the report submitted to Government last month by the expert group on abortion.

The group was established last year to consider the options available to Government in complying with the 2010 decision from the European Court of Human Rights in the A,B and C case.

In December 2010 the European court found Ireland had violated the human rights of C, who has been unable to determine whether or not she was entitled to a legal abortion here.

The expert group has outlined four options – guidelines, secondary legislation, primary legislation or primary legislation underpinned by regulations.

The Government has said it would decided which option to implement by December 20th. Anti-abortion groups have criticised the expert group report, saying three of the options involved abortion which they say could never be morally justifiable. They have also said the Government was not legally obliged to comply with the ECHR ruling.

The Council of Europe, however, highlighted the view of the expert group that “Ireland is under a legal obligation to put in place and implement a legislative or regulatory regime providing effective and accessible procedures whereby pregnant women can establish whether or not they are entitled to a lawful abortion.”

It reiterated the view of the court that the “general prohibition on abortion in criminal law” gave rise to a “significant chilling factor for women and doctors” as to whether to seek or carry out an abortion here.

Concern for women who felt their life was at risk because of their pregnancy was expressed and the council “invited the Irish authorities to take all necessary measures in that respect”. The group “urged the Irish authorities to expedite the implementation of the judgment both in that regard and generally and invited them to inform the committee of the option to be pursued to implement the judgment as soon as possible”.

Mark Kelly, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, welcomed the statement as a “reaffirmation . . . that the Government is under a legally binding obligation” to comply with the ECHR 2010 ruling.

“It is also noteworthy that the committee . . . has chosen to stress that only the implementation of a new statutory framework can provide the protection from criminal prosecution necessary to end the significant ‘chilling’ effect of our outmoded abortion laws.”

* This article was edited on December 11th, 2012