Supreme Court rejects submissions in frozen embryo case


At the Supreme Court today the Chief Justice told a Dublin woman he was rejecting her claim to be legally entitled to make submissions in an appeal to determine the fate of three frozen embryos.

She claimed the Attorney General had during the appeal “completely mirepresented” the intentions of herself and 850,000 others who voted in favour of the anti-abortion amendment in 1983.

The Attorney’s argument that an embryo created as a result of IVF treatment is not an “unborn” within the meaning of the 1983 amendment (Article 40.3.3) and attracts no constitutional protection did not reflect her intention “to protect human life” when she voted in 1983, Esme Caulfield, of Brookwood Park, Artane, said.

Ms Caulfield, who had a number of supporters in and outside court, asked the judges to join her to the appeal as an amicus curiae (assistant to the court on legal issues) so as to make those arguments.

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice John Murray, told Ms Caulfield she did not meet the criteria for an amicus curiae and could not be joined at this late stage.

When Ms Caulfield persisted with questions as to how she could raise her concerns, Mr Justcie Murray, warning her she was in danger of being in contempt of court, asked her to sit down.

The appeal, which opened earlier this month and resumed today, then proceeded and concluded later with the five judge court reserving judgment.

A separated mother of two brought the appeal against the High Court’s refusal to order a Dublin clinic to release the three frozen embryos to her with a view to becoming pregnant against the wishes of her estranged husband.

The embryos were created after fertility treatment undertaken by the woman, now aged 43, and her husband in early 2002 and are stored at the SIMS fertility clinic, Rathgar, Dublin.

The couple had one child in 1997 conceived naturally and a second child was born in October 2002 as a result of the treatment. They separated later in 2002.

The woman claims entitlement to have the remaining three frozen embryos implanted because of (1) consents signed by her husband in 2002 relating to the fertility treatment and (2) the State’s obligation under Article 40.3.3 to protect and vindicate the right to life of the unborn.

She contends an embryo is an “unborn” within Article 40.3.3 as, she claims, human life begins from conception.

In further submissions for the State, Donal O’Donnell SC said the court could not, and should not, decide the issue of when human life begins. That was not for the court to decide and was an issue on which there was no scientific agreement.

Counsel said this was a moral, scientific, philosophical and theological issue with differing views about the moral status of the embryo at its different stages of development.