Supreme Court judgment on unborn case likely next week

The Wording of the proposed amendment may be finalised next Tuesday

Unless the court comprehensively overturns the judgment of the High Court, it is likely that the wording and basis of the referendum would have to be re-examined by the Government.

Unless the court comprehensively overturns the judgment of the High Court, it is likely that the wording and basis of the referendum would have to be re-examined by the Government.

 

The Supreme Court is likely to deliver a judgment next week in a case that has significant implications for the Government’s plans to hold the abortion referendum this summer.

The case, an appeal from the High Court decision which found that the unborn have rights beyond just the right to life, was heard by seven judges of the court for two days last week.

Unless the court comprehensively overturns the judgment of the High Court, it is likely that the wording and basis of the referendum would have to be re-examined by the Government.

If so, this could delay the vote beyond its intended date at the end of May, perhaps until the autumn. The production of a judgment so quickly is highly unusual for the Supreme Court, especially in a case of such importance.

However, the court granted the case an early hearing because of the referendum, and it is understood the judges are keen to produce a judgment quickly.

Finalise wording

The court is not hearing any cases this week, clearly the way for the judges to consider their judgments. A judgment is likely in the early part of next week, The Irish Times understands.

If the appeal is successful, the Government may be able to finalise the wording of the proposed amendment next Tuesday, March 6th, in accordance with its preferred timetable.

If so, the Government would be able to keep to the schedule set out by the Minister for Health Simon Harris to hold the referendum on May 25 – but this applies only if the State’s appeal is totally successful.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys in the High Court ruled that the unborn has constitutional rights beyond the right to life in article 40.3.3 and is a “child” within the meaning of article 42A, with rights the State must protect and vindicate.

Deportation order

The case was taken by a Nigerian man who came here in 2007, with his Irish partner. In 2015, he sought to revoke a 2008 deportation order, arguing that he was about to become the father of a Irish citizen child.

He argued that the unborn had constitutional rights to the company of its father, and that the Minister for Justice had to take these rights into account in making his decision.

The State argued that the Eighth Amendment – placed in the Constitution as article 40.3.3 – encapsulates the rights of the unborn, and the unborn has no constitutional rights outside these provisions.