The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled there is no right to abortion for the Council of Europe that overrides pro-life laws in member countries. The decision, which is binding on all lower chambers and countries of the council, said the European Convention on Human Rights "could not be interpreted as conferring a right to abortion," according to a court news release.
The court, however, decided Ireland violated the rights of a woman who obtained an abortion in England because of fear her cancer might return and threaten her life if she continued to carry her child. The Grand Chamber ruled the Irish government should revise its procedures to enable a woman in such a circumstance to obtain an abortion in her own country.
William Saunders of American United for Life (AUL) said the Dec. 16 ruling "is a victory for those who value the sanctity of all innocent human life."
"The Convention was designed to protect against injustice," said Saunders, AUL's senior counsel and a consultant in the case, in a written statement. "The Court correctly held that the Convention cannot be used to deny a member state's right to legally protect its smallest and most vulnerable members."
In a written release, Jeanne Monahan of Family Research Council (FRC), which filed a brief on behalf of Ireland, described the court's decision as "a very welcome message not only to its constituent countries but to the world at large that the so-called 'right to an abortion' is neither fundamental nor recognized worldwide, as abortion advocates would suggest."
Ireland is one of four countries in the 47-member council that have not legalized abortion. The others are Andorra, Malta and Poland, according to the Times of Malta.
The chamber's decision against a council-wide right to abortion rejected efforts by abortion-promoting organizations that have sought to extend such a requirement to all member states and to punish health-care workers who refuse to perform the procedure.
The case -- A, B and C v. Ireland -- involved three women living in Ireland who traveled to Britain in 2005 for abortions. The Grand Chamber ruled against two of the women, whose reasons for seeking abortion did not involve a threat to their lives.
The court decided Ireland violated the "right to respect for her private life" of the third woman, who feared carrying her child to term might cause her cancer to come out of remission, according to the court's release. The Irish government did not provide the appropriate procedures for the woman to have an abortion, since the country's constitution protects the right to life of both the mother and her unborn child, the court said.
Roger Kiska, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) in Europe, said in a written release, "t's regrettable that Ireland lost on the third count despite such a lack of judicial record, physician consultation, or recourse to Irish courts."
ADF represented FRC in its brief filed with the court.
The chamber ordered Ireland to pay the woman the equivalent of 15,000 euros, which is about $19,600 in the United States.
Roe v. Wade is the 1973 opinion in which the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed state bans on abortion and, in conjunction with an accompanying decision, effectively legalized the procedure for any reason throughout all stages of pregnancy.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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