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Irish Women Could Certainly Use Some Good News

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And the European Court of Justice delivers! Actually, this is only very modestly good news — no Roe or Morgentaler — as Ireland’s draconian ban on most abortions will remain in place.    The ECJ has held, however, that the Irish legislature must act to ensure that Irish women have the access to abortion in life-threatening circumstances that the Irish constitution formally permits:

The court said that the government in Dublin had breached the third woman’s right to respect for her private life by its “failure to implement the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland”.

It ruled that “neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed the third applicant to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland”.

The court said that the only non-judicial way of determining the risk to a woman’s life – on which the government relied – was an ordinary medical consultation between the woman and her doctor. It described this as “ineffective”.

It said that women and their doctors both ran a risk of criminal conviction and imprisonment “if an initial doctor’s opinion that abortion was an option as it posed a risk to the woman’s health was later found to be against the Irish constitution”.

As the fact that two of the women who brought suit lost, the ruling is very narrow, not applying to women for whom pregnancy was a major health or financial burden.   (I should add that this is probably appropriate given the ECJ’s jurisdiction — better reform will probably have to come from within the country.)   But at least it’s one step in the right direction.

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