Irish Republican News · December 21, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Abortion ruling raises fresh controversy

There have been calls for a new referendum to legislate for limited abortion in the 26 Counties following a European court ruling that a woman with cancer had her human rights violated when she was refused an abortion.

The ruling by the Strasbourg-based Court of Human Rights has once again raised the abortion issue as a highly controversial subject in Irish society.

The woman, Michelle Harte from County Wexford, said doctors at Cork University Hospital - where she was being treated for cancer - advised her to terminate the pregnancy because of the risks to her health.

However, she says an ethics forum at the hospital decided against authorising an abortion for her in Ireland on the basis that her life was not under “immediate threat”.

The Euro court effectively ruled that Ireland breached her private life as it had failed to implement the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion under the X case judgement in 1992. Under that case, the Supreme Court ruled that terminating a pregnancy is lawful where the life of a mother is at risk.

However, politicians have shied away from enacting legislation to give effect to that judgement.

Thousands of Irish women continue to travel to British clinics for the procedure annually.

Jan O’Sullivan, spokeswoman for the pro-choice Labour Party, said there is now an obligation on all parties in the Dublin parliament to face up to the implications of the court ruling and introduce legislation to “provide for the right to the termination of a pregnancy in this country in the very limited circumstances specified in the judgement”.

Her colleague Senator Ivana Bacik said the Government should introduce legislation now.

However, the Government said it would examine the judgement carefully and consider what steps are required to implement it.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, said the judgement left future policy in Ireland on protecting the lives of the unborn in the hands of the Irish people and does not oblige Ireland to introduce legislation authorising abortion.

But he acknowledged that the judgement raised profound moral and legal issues.

The radical anti-abortion group Youth Defence described the European Court ruling as “intrusive, unwelcome and an attempt to violate Ireland’s pro-life laws”.

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