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End “Chilling” Effect of Abortion Law on Women and Doctors, Europe tells Government

End “Chilling” Effect of Abortion Law on Women and Doctors, Europe tells Government

Press release, for immediate release, Dublin, 10 December 2012

In its December 2010 judgment in the case of A, B and C v Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland had violated the human rights of a woman who had been unable to determine whether or not she qualified for a lawful abortion.

Two years later, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which enjoys exclusive authority over the implementation by Ireland of this legally-binding judgment, has chosen International Human Rights Day (10 December 2012) to send the Government the clearest possible signal that Ireland’s abortion laws must change.

In a decision published this afternoon, the Committee of Ministers reminds the Government that it is “under a legal obligation to put in place and implement a legislative or regulatory regime providing effective and accessible procedures whereby pregnant women can establish whether or not they are entitled to a lawful abortion in accordance with Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case”.

Addressing the criminalisation of terminations by the Offences against the Person Act 1861, the Committee of Ministers recalls that “the European Court found the general prohibition on abortion in criminal law constituted a significant chilling factor for women and doctors because of the risk of criminal conviction and imprisonment”.

The Committee of Ministers also “underlined again their concern regarding the situation of women who are of the opinion that their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy”.

Commenting on the Committee of Ministers decision, ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:

“We welcome this unequivocal re-affirmation by the Council of Europe that the Government is under a legally-binding obligation to implement the judgment in the case of A, B and C v Ireland and its acceptance of a firm deadline of 20 December 2012 by which the Government will decide how our abortion laws will be reformed.”

“It is also noteworthy that the Committee of Ministers has chosen to stress that only the implementation of a new statutory framework can provide the protection from criminal prosecution necessary to end the significant “chilling” effect of our outmoded abortion laws on the women and doctors of Ireland.”, Mr Kelly added.

Mark Kelly is available for further comment.

For further information contact:

Walter Jayawardene
Communications Manager
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
9-13 Blackhall Place
Dublin 7
Ireland

Tel. + 353 1 799 4503
Mob: +353 87 9981574   
Fax. + 353 1 799 4512
 
E-mail  walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie
Web     www.iccl.ie

Note to editors:

•    Ireland’s implementation of the legally-binding judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of A, B and C v Ireland is subject to “enhanced supervision” by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This new decision of the Committee of Ministers was adopted at the 1157th Meeting of the Ministers' Deputies (Human Rights), held in Strasbourg from 4-6 December 2012.  The decision was adopted in response to an “action plan” to implement the judgment submitted to the Committee of Ministers by the Government of Ireland.

The full text of the Committee of Ministers decision is at the below link and pasted below:

https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=2010979&Site=CM&BackColorInternet=C3C3C3&BackColorIntranet=EDB021&BackColorLogged=F5D383
 
 
The Committee of Ministers:

1. noted with satisfaction that on 13 November 2012 the expert group tasked with advising the Irish authorities on how to implement the judgment, submitted its report which identifies four options – guidelines, secondary legislation, primary legislation and primary legislation coupled with regulations – and that the authorities will decide on the option to be pursued to implement the judgment before 20 December 2012;
2. highlighted, in this connection, that the expert group noted that "Ireland is under a legal obligation to put in place and implement a legislative or regulatory regime providing effective and accessible procedures whereby pregnant women can establish whether or not they are entitled to a lawful abortion in accordance with Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case” and considered that this would address the concerns raised by the Court (see §§264-267 of the judgment);
3. recalled also in this context that the European Court found the general prohibition on abortion in criminal law constituted a significant chilling factor for women and doctors because of the risk of criminal conviction and imprisonment, and noted the view of the expert group that only the implementation of a statutory framework would provide a defence from criminal prosecution;
4. underlined again their concern regarding 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 and invited the Irish authorities to take all necessary measures in that respect;
5. urged the Irish authorities to expedite the implementation of the judgment both in that regard and generally, and invited them to inform the Committee of the option to be pursued to implement the judgment as soon as possible;
6. decided to resume consideration of these issues at the latest at its 1164th meeting (March 2013) (DH).”

Further notes to editor

•    The Government’s new 3-page “Action Plan” on the implementation of the judgment in the case of A, B and C v Ireland can be downloaded from the website of the Council of Europe at this link: https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?Ref=DH-DD(2012)1124&Language=lanEnglish&Site=CM

•    A submission by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe regarding the implementation of the judgment can be downloaded from the same website at this link: https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?Ref=DH-DD(2012)882&Language=lanEnglish&Site=CM


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