Government urged by European body to ‘expedite’ abortion legislation

European Court of Human Rights committee talks of ‘chilling factor’ of current legal situation on women and doctors

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Photograph: Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Photograph: Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

 

A report from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Committee of Ministers published yesterday has called on the Government to implement legislation to deal with abortion.

In its sixth annual report, Supervision of the Execution of Judgments and Decisions of the ECHR , the committee of ministers urged the Government to “expedite” the implementation of the A, B and C judgment on abortion, delivered by the ECHR in 2010.

The judgment is included in a list of cases requiring “enhanced supervision” to ensure implementation.

The A, B and C judgment found the absence of any implementing legislative or regulatory regime which provided an “accessible and effective procedure” to establish the “possibilities for a lawful abortion where there is a risk to the mother’s life” was in breach of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In yesterday’s report, the committee “underlined again” its concern on how “the situation of women who are of the opinion that their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy in circumstances similar to those experienced by the third applicant”, C, was “being addressed”.

It welcomed the Report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in A, B and C v Ireland , published last December, and noted the expert group’s statement that “Ireland has a legal obligation” to put in place a regime whereby pregnant women “can establish whether or not they are entitled to an abortion”. It noted the group’s view that “only the implementation of a statutory framework would provide a defence from criminal prosecution”.


‘Chilling factor’
The committee said “the general prohibition on abortion in criminal law constitutes a significant chilling factor for women and doctors due to the risk of criminal conviction and imprisonment”. It “invited the Irish authorities to take all necessary measures”, to implement the judgment.

Cases that attract enhanced supervision are those requiring urgent individual measures, those that are “pilot judgments” and those in which major structural or complex problems are identified.