Ireland – Last Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012, 13:40


The Government has defeated a Dáil Private Members’ Bill implementing the X case ruling to provide limited access to abortion by 111 votes to 20.

The Private Members’ Bill, put forward by Socialist Party TD Clare Daly, along with People Before Profit TD Joan Collins and Independent TD Mick Wallace, seeks to create a legal framework for abortion in Ireland where a woman’s life is at risk.

The vote was opposed by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail. It was backed by Sinn Fein and number of independents.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly rejected the Bill on the grounds that the House should await the report of an expert group on the matter.

Speaking before the vote, Ms Daly said she respected other people’s opinions, but there had some inaccuracies in the debate. The Bill, she said, did not seek abortion on demand. She said it was incredibly limited and solely provided for the situation whereby an abortion would be permissible in Ireland where the life of the woman was at risk, including from suicide.

Following a 1992 Supreme Court ruling – known as the X-case – abortion has been legal in circumstances where there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother. However, successive governments have not enacted legislation to give full effect to the ruling.

Minister of State for Health Roisín Shortall thanked Ms Daly and her colleagues for moving the Bill. She reiterated the Government’s commitment to the “expeditious implementation’’ of the European Court of Human Rights judgement. This found the State had violated the rights of a woman who had cancer and who was forced to travel abroad to get an abortion.

Ms Shortall said she agreed with people who were critical of the fact that the issue had not been addressed. “Many years have been lost in respect of the commitment to legislate for the X case,’” she added.

She said it was unfair to criticise the current Government, given that an expert group had been set up and legislation would be introduced in accordance with its recommendations.

“As soon as the expert group reports at the end of June, the Government is absolutely committed to taking action in this area,” Ms Shortall added.

During the debate, Fine Gael TD for Mayo Michelle Mulherin said “fornication” was the single greatest cause of unwanted pregnancies in Ireland.

“In an ideal world there would be no unwanted pregnancies and no unwanted babies. But we are far from living in an ideal world,” she said. “Abortion as murder, therefore sin, which is the religious argument, is no more sinful, from a scriptural point of view, than all other sins we don’t legislate against, like greed, hate and fornication. The latter, being fornication, I would say, is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies in this country.”

Labour Party deputies voted against the Bill despite expressing support for such a move at last week’s party conference. A spokeswoman said last night the issue of abortion was a sensitive one and should not be dealt with through a Private Members’ Bill.

At the party’s annual conference last weekend, Labour members supported a motion in favour of legislating to give effect to the X-case ruling. Labour has consistently called for such a move since the 1992 ruling.

“In the meantime women who need life-saving abortions, and their doctors, are in the same invidious legal position as they were 20 years ago,” he said. “Nor will the European Court of Human Rights be content to see Ireland’s legislators continue to drag their heels. Action is long overdue – and this Bill is a minimum first step.”

Ireland has produced many brave and influential women whose lives have helped change Irish society, but it’s a tragic irony that one of those who’s had the biggest impact – and sparked the longest-running controversy – is someone whose name we don’t know, who was only 14 when she came to our (and the world’s) attention and who you can bet would have given anything to have never been heard from in the first place.

She’s known as Miss X, and 20 years ago she was raped and impregnated by a much older family “friend”. Ireland is still governed by 1861 (!) legislation which makes abortion a crime punishable by life imprisonment, so her parents took her to England. When they contacted Irish police to ask if the embryonic remains might be useful as evidence, the police contacted the Attorney General, who promptly sought an injunction to compel her to return to Ireland and remain for the next nine months.

This astonishingly cruel and repressive act was “justified”, according to the Attorney General, by Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. Passed by referendum in 1983, the Article reads:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Miss X, however, was threatening suicide if she was forced to bear her rapist’s child and so her lawyers argued that her own right to life – also protected by Article 40.3.3 – was engaged. In the High Court, Justice Declan Costello (who was eulogised on his death last year for his commitment to social justice) applied a crude balancing test to reach his decision: if Miss X was forced to continue the pregnancy, she might die, but if she was allowed an abortion the foetus would die. He thus granted the injunction barring her from travel.

On appeal, the Supreme Court took a different approach: a majority deemed abortion permissible under Article 40.3.3 where it is established, as a matter of probability, that there is a real and substantial risk (not necessarily an immediate or inevitable one) to the woman’s life. The risk of suicide, it held, fell within these exceptional grounds.

The government responded to the decision – and the controversy engulfing Irish society – by putting three more referenda to the people (the Irish Constitution can only be changed by referendum). One would have overturned the X decision to the extent that it deemed suicide a risk entitling a woman to an abortion. The second would clarify that Article 40.3.3 did not impinge on the freedom to travel outside the state – a necessity since a majority of the Supreme Court had also felt that the rights of the “unborn” would supersede the right to travel where there was no risk to the pregnant woman’s life. The third aimed at resolving another ongoing controversy, allowing information to be made available about legal abortion services outside the State.

The Irish people voted sensibly, around two-thirds defeating the first referendum and slightly smaller majorities passing the other two. This still left the State with one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, however – and the cowardice of successive governments, in refusing to legislate for the decision, means that 20 years on we still don’t know exactly what it means in real terms. How is it to be determined whether a pregnancy poses a real and substantial risk to life? Who gets to decide? And what remedies are available to a woman denied an abortion despite believing she falls within the criteria set out in X?

There are no answers to these questions – and the consequences for some women are dire. In 2010, a woman named Michelle Harte from County Wexford, a cancer patient, was advised by her doctors at Cork University Hospital that she should have an abortion because of the threat posed by her pregnancy. However, the hospital ethics committee – which apparently did not read the X judgment very carefully – overruled this advice, deeming the risk to her life insufficiently “immediate”. The identity of those on this “ethics committee” is unclear, but it is stated to include a number of non-medical people, including some with “theology and philosophy backgrounds”. What kind of bullshit policy allows theologians to overrule doctors’ decisions about the medical risk to someone’s life?

Another woman harmed by the lack of legislation in this area is known to us as “C”. She was one of three plaintiffs who challenged Ireland’s abortion laws before the European Court of Human Rights, which found in her favour (although not in the other two’s) in December 2010. In a ruling that was entirely predictable after the 2007 Tysiac v Poland case, the ECHR held that Ms C’s Article 8 (private and family life) rights had been breached by the State’s failure to make abortion actually available in the extremely limited circumstances where it is legal. (Ms C, like Michelle Harte, was a cancer patient; she testified that she could not even get medical advice on the risks posed by her pregnancy, such was the chilling effect of the anti-abortion criminal law.)

The State is obliged to abide by the rulings of the ECHR (although there is little in the way of enforcement mechanisms) and so, as a practical matter, it has one of two options. It can either amend the Constitution to remove the “due regard to the equal right to the life of the mother” clause – thereby making abortion illegal even to save a woman’s life – or it can set out a clear and transparent mechanism, with a proper appeals procedure, for women who believe they meet the X criteria.

To readers outside Ireland, the fact that this even poses a dilemma for the government must seem indescribably bizarre – something you might expect to find in the Taliban’s Afghanistan or Khomeini’s Iran, but not in an ostensibly modern, advanced OCSE country in northwestern Europe. And in fact, it’s pretty bizarre to us too. A referendum to remove the right to a life-saving abortion hasn’t a hope of getting past an Irish public that believes by almost nine-to-one that such abortions should be legal. It’s notable that in the two referenda that have attempted to roll back the X decision – the one immediately following the judgment in 1992, and a second one a decade later – it was only the eligibility of potential suicides that was at issue; the possibility of taking the right away from women facing other risks to their lives, women like Michelle Harte and Ms C, wasn’t even contemplated. Why on earth would it be contemplated now?

And so, as Choice Ireland noted several months before that predictable ECHR decision, the Irish anti-abortion movement have taken a different tack: they’re now picking a fight with the English language. In regular ludicrous press releases and columns like this one, they’re trying to convince a (not-buying-it) public that there is no need to protect the right to a life-saving abortion, because there is no such thing as a life-saving abortion, because – wait for it – it isn’t really an “abortion” if the purpose is to save the woman’s life. It’s a “necessary medical procedure”, or something to this effect. Which just happens to end in the death of the foetus or embryo. Got that?

Now you know, and I know, and anyone who’s ever opened a dictionary knows, that that’s a load of rubbish and there’s not a chance of the law being changed to reflect it. But what the hardcore anti-abortion movement lacks in logic and public support, they more than make up for in political power. Quite simply, the major political parties in this country are scared shitless of them – and I mean all the major political parties, not just the two right-wing ones (Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael) that have consistently pledged not to legislate for the X case. The two next-largest parties, Labour and Sinn Féin, both support the right to abortion in life-saving and a couple other scenarios, but neither trusts a woman to make up her own mind about the decision. In fact, prior to the last election (which returned five members of the United Left Alliance), there was not a single pro-choice party in the Irish parliament. And even the ULA declined to campaign on the issue during the election, although to their credit they’re starting to make up for that now.

A consequence of this hold that the foetalists have over politicians is that more than a year after the ECHR decision (and, of course, twenty after the X case) we’re still waiting for implementation. And we’ll be waiting a while more. The government “met” its obligation to tell the ECHR how it was going to implement the decision by stating that it would establish an “expert group” to consider how to implement it. Just telling that to the ECHR took six months. It took another seven to announce who was being appointed to the group and the group’s terms of reference. The group’s conclusions are to be reported back to the government in a further six months. What happens then is anyone’s guess.

There are a lot of aspects of this story that I find sickening, but perhaps none more so than this: we in Ireland are in the midst of several years of austerity budgets, which this and the last government have justified by saying they need to make “hard decisions”. So they have made the hard decision to cut income supports for working and unemployed people, lone parents and those in need of extra assistance to care for the children they have. They have the made the hard decision to impose new stealth taxes and increase VAT, all of which will have a disproportionate negative impact on those already struggling to cope. They have made the hard decision to cut funding for community and support services for low-income women and families, and to combine the Equality Authority and Human Rights Commission into a single (and even weaker) body at precisely the time when discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers is increasing. So, the Irish government has no problem making the hard decisions that hurt women and families, and the hard decisions that make it more likely that some pregnant women will seek abortions. But legislating to ensure that a woman who might die without an abortion can get one in Ireland?

It seems that’s a hard decision too far.

Please go here for information on the Action On X campaign, or email actiononx at gmail dot com

The Irish Times – Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DEAGLÁN de BRÉADÚN, Political Correspondent

MEMBERS OF the medical, legal and nursing professions are to sit on a 14-member expert group being set up to address the outcome of last year’s European Court of Human Rights ruling on abortion rights in Ireland.

Minister for Health James Reilly received approval at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting to establish the group. It will be in place by the end of the year or shortly thereafter and will have six months to deliver a report to Government.

The European Court ruled last December that the State had failed to implement existing rights to lawful abortion where a mother’s life is at risk. The court found the State violated the rights of a woman with cancer who said she was forced to travel abroad to obtain an abortion.

The programme for government pledged to “establish an expert group to address this issue, drawing on appropriate medical and legal expertise with a view to making recommendations to Government”. As required under the procedures of the court, the Government submitted an action plan last June, outlining its intention to set up the expert group.

Also at yesterday’s meeting, Taoiseach Enda Kenny received approval for the establishment of an interdepartmental committee on European engagements as a subcommittee of the Cabinet.

Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton is expected to play a prominent role on this committee, which will monitor and co-ordinate the Government’s involvement with EU institutions.

09.19.11 – In May, the U.N. Committee against Torture reviewed the Republic of Ireland’s initial periodic report. The Committee’s concluding observations reiterated the European Court for Human Rights’ concerns expressed in its judgment in the case of A, B, and C v. Ireland , to which the Center for Reproductive Rights, and their partner, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief.
Abortion is banned in Ireland except when a woman’s life is in danger, and the Irish legislature has failed to establish criteria in legislation for when this exception for life-threatening conditions applies. The Committee expressed concerns over Ireland’s lack of effective and accessible procedures to establish “whether some pregnancies pose a real and substantial medical risk to the life of the [pregnant woman].”   Furthermore, the Committee found that, legislation being vague, both woman and provider being at risk of criminal repercussions along with the absence of an appeal process, may “raise issues that constitute a breach of the Convention.” The Committee specifically cited concerns for vulnerable populations, such as minors, migrant women, and women living in poverty.
The Committee urged Ireland to adopt a clear legal framework with respect to the scope of legal abortion, and to ensure adequate procedures are in place  to challenge differing medical opinions and to provide “adequate services for carrying out abortions” in the state.
The Center welcomes this initiative and urges Ireland to take immediate action to implement the U.N. Committee’s recommendations and expand access to safe and legal abortion.

The Pro Life Campaign was recently granted special NGO consultative status by the United Nations. NGO status allows accredited organisations to formally contribute to the work programmes and goals of the United Nations by serving as technical experts, advisers and consultants. NGOs are also invited to participate in international UN conferences and to make oral and written interventions on issues of concern.

This gives the Pro Life Campaign an important platform to influence the debate at an international level. It allready announced it will “emphasise that Ireland can be an example to other countries in safeguarding the lives of both mothers and babies”.

The PLC recently made a submission to the UN Human Rights Council, which in October examines Ireland’s record on human rights as part of its Universal Periodic Review. Among other things, the PLC called on the UN group to recognise abortion as a violation of human rights and to acknowledge Ireland’s outstanding record of care in protecting the lives of women during pregnancy while at the same time affording legal protection to unborn babies. You can view this submission here.

In the coming months, as a participating NGO, the Pro Life Campaign will join with other groups in bringing further pressure to bear on China over its toleration of the brutal practice of forced abortion.

Good news from Ireland. As reported by Choice Ireland the morning after pill ” NorLevo” is now available without a prescription in pharmacies. The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) decided that the pill “NorLevo” can  be given to women in need over-the-counter.

Commenting, spokesperson Sinéad Ahern said:

“The IMB’s decision should greatly increase Irish women’s ability to obtain access to emergency contraception within the crucial time frame. While we welcomed the step already taken by Boots, the high cost being charged in their pharmacies and their limited number of locations still posed significant obstacles for many women. We hope that those obstacles will now be broken down and that Irish women will have the same access to this safe and effective medication as women in most other European countries.

This is a victory not only in the campaign to prevent crisis pregnancies but for the fundamental right of women to the tools they need to make their own reproductive choices.”

(german version below)


Coerced childbearing is tantamount to servitude

Comment on the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 16 January 2010

Anne-Marie Rey, abortion-information, Zollikofen/Switzerland


I am not a lawyer, but I was thouroughly disappointed by the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of ABC v Ireland. The judgment may bring a solution, now and then, to a handfull of women in Ireland faced with a life-threatening condition because of their pregnancy. But most Irish women will still have to travel to another country for abortion. In my opinion, the Court just did not see (or did not want to see, for political reasons) that forced childbearing violates core fundamental personal rights of women.

Ireland together with the mini-states of Andorra, Malta and San Marino are the only states in Europe where abortion is still totally prohibited (in Ireland with the only exception of risk to life for the pregnant woman). The Irish Constitution guarantees „the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”. There is no law defining more precisely what is meant by “due regard” or any procedure for such cases. There is only a judgment by the Irish Supreme Court saying that risk of suicide is also a legitimate ground for abortion.

In 2005 three women, A., B. and C., submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (Court). They claimed that the impossibility to obtain an abortion in Ireland was stigmatising and an affront to their dignity and, in the case of C., constituted even a risk to her life. The Court held that in the case of applicant C. there had been a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – which guarantees the right to respect for private life – because the authorities had failed to provide a procedure by which she could have established whether she qualified for a lawful abortion in Ireland.

On the other hand, by 11 votes to 6, the Court dismissed the claims of applicants A. and B., since „only“ their health and well-being had been at stake and they had the possibility to interrupt their pregnancy in England. Having regard to the profound moral views of the Irish people, the Court considered that by prohibiting abortion for health and well-being reasons Ireland had not exceeded its margin of appreciation.

It strikes me that only 5 of the 17 judges were women, 3 of whom were among the 6 dissenting judges who argued that not only applicant C’s (who had a life-threatening condition), but also applicants A and B’s right to private life had been violated under article 8 of the ECHR, because they were not entitled to have an abortion in Ireland for reasons of health and well-being. The other two women on the panel of judges were the representatives of the accused State of Ireland and of Andorra (which has an even stricter ban of abortion).

Article 2 ECHR: everyone’s right to life

In its ruling, the Court has NOT recognized the existence of a „right to life of the unborn“, as was wrongly alleged by antiabortion circles (in particular the European Centre for Law and Justice ECLJ – what a misleading name!). But it did concede to Ireland a broad margin of appreciation to determine “the protection accorded under IRISH law to the right to life of the unborn”. In its reasoning the Court stuck to earlier findings that “there was no European consensus on the scientific and legal definition of the beginning of life, so that it was neither desirable nor possible to answer the question whether the unborn was a person to be protected for the purposes of Article 2 ECHR”, hence, the question of when the right to life begins came within the States’ margin of appreciation. – Not exactly a bold statement.

The Court is mixing up two distinct notions: „beginning of life“ is not the same as „beginning of personhood“. The question is not when life begins, but when a person becomes a person. Only persons have rights. In the French version of the ECHR the word „personne“ is used in Article 2. In the case of Paton v United Kingdom of 1980 (Appl. 6959/75) the Court took a clear stand and said; „both the general usage of the term ‘everyone’ (‘toute personne’) of the Convention and the context in which this term is employed in Article 2 tend to support the view that it does not include the unborn“.

So in a possible next complaint to the Court concerning abortion rights, we should argue that in fact there IS a strong consensus in Europe that personhood begins at birth and therefore embryos do NOT have a right to life. No European States – with the exception of the four mentioned above – accord to prenatal life the same protection as to born persons, let alone an absolute right to life. (When the German Constitutional Court in its judgment of 1993 talked about a „right to life of the unborn“, it did by no means confer to the unborn an equal right to life as to persons already born, otherwise it could never have admitted a law permitting abortion on request within the first weeks of pregnancy. By its reasoning, the German court has created a sort of second class “right to life” thereby dangerously weakening the notion.)

Article 8 ECHR: the right to respect for private and family life

Fortunately the Court has reiterated its earlier finding: “the notion of ’private life’ within the meaning of Article 8 of the Convention is a broad concept which encompasses, inter alia, the right to personal autonomy and personal development,… a person’s physical and psychological integrity as well as decisions both to have and not to have a child”. The Court did NOT say categorically – as purported by the ECLJ – that there is “no human right to abortion stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights“. The Court only referred to Article 8 which, unfortunately, according to the Court “cannot be interpreted as conferring a right to abortion” and it added – repeating an earlier statement – that “not every regulation of the termination of pregnancy constitutes an interference with the right to respect for the private life of the mother”. [Why do the judges use the word “mother” when meaning a pregnant woman???!!!]

Unfortunately, 11 out of the 17 judges decided, that the prohibition in Ireland of abortion for reasons of health and well-being, although constituting an interference with the right to respect for private life, was justified because it was “necessary in a democratic society” for pursuing a legitimate aim, namely “the protection of (Irish) morals of which the protection in Ireland of the right to life of the unborn was one aspect”. Having regard to the right to travel abroad for an abortion and to have access to appropriate information and medical care before and afterwards, the Court found that Ireland had “struck a fair balance between the rights of women and the profound moral values of the Irish people and did not exceed its margin of appreciation.”

The Court did not take into account that many women cannot afford to travel, that the procedure is delayed and made more burdensome and that the abortion ban criminalizes and humiliates women.

Double standard

In my opinion, the Court applies double standards, whether it’s abortion or in vitro fertilization (IVF):

  • In the case S.H. and Others v Austria (Appl. 57813/00) concerning IVF, the Court declared that “a complete ban on the medical technique at issue would not be proportionate unless it was deemed to be the only means of effectively preventing serious repercussions“. On the other hand, the Court finds the Irish prohibition of abortion proportionate, although prohibition has never and nowhere been an effective means to avoid abortions but, on the contrary, has always had serious repercussions for women!
  • The Court did not address at all in the S.H. v Austria case the argument of the Austrian government as for an „unease existing among large sections of society“ concerning modern reproductive medicine. Instead, contrary to the Irish case, the Court found that “concerns based on moral considerations or on social acceptability are not in themselves sufficient reasons for a complete ban on a specific artificial procreation technique“.
  • Although the Court acknowledged that there is no European consensus“ on IVF, it did not concede a “large margine of appreciation” to Austria, whereas it did concede such a margin to Ireland, in spite of a strong European consensus existing with regard to abortion rights.
  • In the Austrian case, the Court held that the restrictive law on reproductive medicine violated article 8 ECHR, because where a particularly important facet of an individual’s existence or identity is at stake, the margin allowed to the State will be restricted, and the wish for a child IS one such particularly important facet“. Ireland on the other hand was accorded a broad margin of appreciation, in spite of abortion also touching a “particularly important facet of an individual’s existence or identity“.

It looks like in the eyes of the Strasbourg judges the desire to have a child was more existentially important than the wish NOT to become a mother. I would see it rather the other way round.

Article 4 ECHR: prohibition of servitude and forced labour

It is appalling that States may violate women’s most fundamental rigths just to protect “moral values” of a (presumed) majority of their inhabitants. In my opinion the majority judges did not realize what it means for a woman to UNWILLINGLY (!!!) have to carry to term within her body, for 9 months, an embryo/fetus and then have to give birth.

Articles 4 of the ECHR and of the International Declaration on Human Rights prohibit servitude and forced labour. Astonishingly, no abortion ban has yet been challenged pursuant to these articles.

„Servitude“ – the word used in the German translation of Articles 4 is „Leibeigenschaft“, which expresses exactly what forced pregnancy means: your body belongs to someone else, the State (or a fetus) takes possession of the body of a woman, against her will. The word „labour“ applies to a woman giving birth, forced childbearing is nothing else but forced labour!

In her book „Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics“ theologian Beverly Harrison compares pregnancy and childbearing to servitude when they are compulsory. And Dawn Johnsen, law professor at Indiana University School of Law said: “Statutes that curtail [a woman’s] abortion choice are disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude”.

So, in a possible future complaint to the European Court of Human Rights concerning abortion rights, I would suggest

  1. to invoke Article 4 of the ECHR which prohibits servitude and forced labour and
  2. to argue that, in fact, there does exist a strong consensus in Europe that personhood begins at birth and therefore Article 2 ECHR definitely does not include prenatal life.


Gebärpflicht bedeutet Leibeigenschaft

Kommentar zum Urteil des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte vom 16.12.2010


Anne-Marie Rey, Schwangerschaftsabbruch-Infostelle, Zollikofen/Schweiz


Ich bin nicht Juristin, aber ich bin tief enttäuscht über das Urteil des Europäischen Gerichtshofes für Menschenrechte (EGMR) zur Frage der Abtreibung im Fall A., B. und C. gegen Irland vom 16. Dezember 2010 ( Das Urteil mag für einige wenige Frauen in Irland, deren Leben durch eine Schwangerschaft gefährdet ist, eine Lösung bringen. Aber die allermeisten Irländerinnen werden nach wie vor für einen Schwangerschaftsabbruch ins Ausland reisen müssen. Meines Erachtens hat das Gericht schlicht übersehen (oder wollte es aus politischen Gründen nicht sehen), dass eine Gebärpflicht den Kernbereich der Persönlichkeitsrechte der Frau verletzt.

Irland gehört mit den Zwergstaaten Andorra, Malta und San Marino zu den einzigen vier Ländern in Europa, die heute noch Schwangerschaftsabbruch total verbieten (in Irland mit der einzigen Ausnahme der akuten Lebensgefahr für die Schwangere). Die Irische Verfassung garantiert „das Recht auf Leben des Ungeborenen, unter gebührender Berücksichtigung des gleichen Rechts auf Leben der Mutter“. Ein präzisierendes Gesetz, was unter „gebührender Berücksichtigung“ zu verstehen und wie in solchen Fällen vorzugehen sei, gibt es nicht, bloss ein Gerichtsurteil von 1993, wonach auch Suizidgefährdung einen Schwangerschaftsabbruch legitimiert.

Im Jahr 2005 haben 3 Frauen, A., B. und C., beim EGMR gegen Irland geklagt: Die Unmöglichkeit, in Irland eine Schwangerschaft abbrechen zu lassen, sei stigmatisierend und demütigend und gefährde ihre Gesundheit, im Fall von C. sogar ihr Leben. Das Gericht hat im Fall der Klägerin C. (eine Frau, deren Leben durch die Schwangerschaft gefährdet war) eine Verletzung von Artikel 8 der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention (EMRK), der das Recht auf Privatleben garantiert, bejaht. Die Behörden hätten es unterlassen, ein Verfahren einzurichten, das ihr erlaubt hätte, ihren Anspruch auf einen legalen Abbruch in Irland abklären zu lassen.

Die Klagen von A. und B. hingegen wies das Gericht mit 11 zu 6 Stimmen ab. Bei ihnen sei es „nur“ um ihre Gesundheit, beziehungsweise ihr Wohlbefinden gegangen und sie hätten ja die Möglichkeit gehabt, die Schwangerschaft in England abzubrechen. Mit Rücksicht auf die in Irland vorherrschenden moralischen Werte liege es im Ermessen Irlands, Abtreibungen aus solchen Gründen zu verbieten.

Mir fällt auf, dass unter den 17 Richtern nur gerade fünf Frauen waren. Drei von ihnen gehörten zur Gruppe der sechs Richter, die Artikel 8 der EMRK auch bei den Klägerinnen A. und B. verletzt sahen, weil sie in Irland keine Möglichkeit hatten, ihre Schwangerschaft aus Gründen der Gesundheit und des Wohlbefindens abbrechen zu lassen. Die beiden andern Frauen im Richtergremium waren die Vertreterinnen des angeklagten Irland und Andorras, dessen Abtreibungsverbot noch krasser ist als dasjenige Irlands.

Artikel 2 EMRK: Jeder hat das Recht auf Leben

Das Gericht hat in seiner Urteilsbegründung NICHT ein „Recht auf Leben des Ungeborenen anerkannt“, wie gewisse Kreise der Abtreibungsgegner (namentlich das European Centre for Law and Justice ECLJ – welch ein irreführender Name!) behaupteten. Es hat jedoch Irland einen weiten Ermessensspielraum zugestanden zu bestimmen, inwieweit „im IRISCHEN Recht dem Recht auf Leben des Ungeborenen“ Schutz zu gewähren sei. Das Gericht begründet dies – wie bereits in früheren Entscheiden – damit, dass es keinen europäischen Konsens über die wissenschaftliche und gesetzliche Definition des Lebensbeginns gebe, so dass es weder wünschenswert noch möglich sei, die Frage zu beantworten, ob das Ungeborene eine zu schützende Person im Sinn von Artikel 2 EMRK sei. Die Frage, wann das Recht auf Leben beginne, gehöre daher in den Ermessensspielraum der Staaten. – Nicht gerade eine mutige Aussage.

Das Gericht vermischt zwei unterschiedliche Begriffe: „Lebensbeginn“ ist nicht gleichzusetzen mit „Beginn des Personseins“. Die Frage ist nicht, wann Leben beginnt, sondern ab wann eine Person eine Person ist. Nur Personen haben Rechte (im Französischen wird in Art. 2 EMRK der Begriff „toute personne…“ verwendet). Im Fall Paton v Vereinigtes Königreich vom Jahr 1980 (Appl. 6959/75) hat das Gericht in der Urteilsbegründung klarer Stellung bezogen: Die Verwendung des Begriffs “jeder” in der EMRK und in Artikel 2 im Besonderen unterstützten die Ansicht, ungeborenes Leben sei NICHT eingeschlossen, schrieb es damals.

In einer eventuellen nächsten Beschwerde an den EGMR zum Abtreibungsrecht müsste argumentiert werden, dass es in Europa sehr wohl einen Konsens gibt, dass Personsein und somit das Recht auf Leben mit der Geburt beginnt. Kein Staat – abgesehen von den vier eingangs genannten Ländern – gewährt ungeborenem Leben denselben Schutz wie Geborenen, geschweige denn ein absolutes Lebensrecht. (Wenn das deutsche Bundesverfassungsgericht in seinem Urteil von 1993 von einem „Lebensrecht des Ungeborenen“ redet, dann ist damit nicht ein gleiches Recht auf Leben gemeint wie bei Geborenen, sonst hätte es keinesfalls eine Fristenregelung für zulässig erklären können. Vielmehr hat das BVerfG gleichsam ein „Recht auf Leben“ zweiter Klasse geschaffen und den Begriff dadurch geschwächt).

Artikel 8 EMRK: Recht auf Achtung des Privat- und Familienlebens

Der EGMR hat erfreulicherweise erneut festgehalten: „Der Begriff ‚Privatleben’ im Sinne von Artikel 8 der Konvention ist ein breites Konzept, welches unter anderem das Recht auf persönliche Autonomie und persönliche Entfaltung einschliesst,… [und auch] Themen wie die körperliche und geistige Integrität einer Person sowie die Entscheidung, ein Kind zu bekommen oder kein Kind zu bekommen betrifft“. Entgegen der Behauptung des ECLJ befand das Gericht nicht kategorisch, aus der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention lasse sich kein Recht auf Abtreibung ableiten. Das Gericht bezog sich einzig auf Artikel 8, von welchem es leider tatsächlich sagte, er könne nicht im Sinne eines Rechts auf Abtreibung interpretiert werden. Es zitierte aus früheren Urteilen: Nicht jede Regelung des Schwangerschaftsabbruchs verletze das Recht auf Achtung des Privatlebens der Mutter. [Warum bloss verwenden die Richter das Wort „Mutter“, wenn sie eine schwangere Frau meinen??!!]

Leider haben 11 der 17 Richter entschieden, das irische Verbot der Abtreibung bei Gefährdung der Gesundheit und des Wohlbefindens der Schwangeren sei gerechtfertigt, obwohl das Recht auf Achtung des Privatlebens dadurch beeinträchtigt werde. Das Verbot sei „in einer demokratischen Gesellschaft notwendig“, weil es ein legitimes Ziel verfolge, nämlich den „Schutz der (irischen) Moral“. Dazu zähle in Irland auch der Schutz des Lebensrechts des Ungeborenen. Angesichts der Möglichkeit, für den Abbruch ins Ausland zu reisen und auch entsprechende Informationen und Beratung sowie medizinische Vor- und Nachsorge zu erhalten, habe Irland eine faire Abwägung zwischen den Rechten der Frauen und den tiefgehenden moralischen Werten des Irischen Volkes vorgenommen und seinen Ermessensspielraum nicht überschritten.

Dass sich viele Frauen solche Reisen nicht leisten können, dass der Eingriff dadurch verzögert, belastender wird, dass das Abtreibungsverbot Frauen kriminalisiert und demütigt, haben die Richter unter den Tisch gewischt.


Mir scheint ausserdem, das Gericht wendet zweierlei Massstäbe an, ob es geht um Abtreibung oder um in-vitro-Fertilisation (IVF):

  • Im Fall S.H. gegen Österreich (Appl. 57813/00), wo es um Fortpflanzungsmedizin ging, hat der EGMR erklärt, ein völliges Verbot der IVF wäre unverhältnismässig, ausser es sei das einzige Mittel, wirksam schwerwiegende Folgen zu vermeiden. Das irische Abtreibungsverbot hingegen findet das Gericht verhältnismässig, obwohl solche Verbote noch nie und nirgends Abtreibungen verhindern konnten, sondern im Gegenteil schwerwiegende Folgen für Frauen haben!
  • Im Gegensatz zu Irland ging das Gericht im Fall S.H. gar nicht näher auf das Argument der österreichischen Regierung ein, in weiten Teilen der Bevölkerung bestehe ein Unbehagen gegenüber der Fortpflanzungsmedizin. Im Gegenteil befand der EGMR, die vorgebrachten Bedenken Österreichs hin­sichtlich Moral oder gesellschaft­licher Akzeptanz seien keine ausreichenden Gründe für ein völliges Verbot.
  • Im Fall von Irland gestand der EGMR der Regierung einen grossen Ermessensspielraum zu – im Fall von Österreich hingegen nicht, obwohl es zur Frage des Schwangerschaftsabbruchs einen breiten europäischen Konsens gibt, im Gegensatz zur IVF.
  • Beim Wunsch nach einem Kind gehe es um einen besonders wichtigen Aspekt der Existenz oder Identität einer Person, der Ermes­sensspielraum des Staates sei daher eingeschränkt, schrieb der EGMR zum Fall S.H., das restriktive österreichische Fortpflanzungsmedizin-Gesetz verletze Artikel 8 EMRK. Irland hingegen wurde beim Abtreibungsverbot ein weiter Ermessensspielraum zugestanden, obwohl es auch hier „um einen besonders wichtigen Aspekt der Existenz oder Identität einer Person“ ging.

Offenbar ist in den Augen der Strassburger Richter der Kinderwunsch existenzieller als der Wunsch, KEIN Kind zu bekommen! Ich sehe das eher umgekehrt.

Artikel 4 EMRK: Verbot der Leibeigenschaft und der Zwangsarbeit

Ich bin empört, dass es zulässig sein soll, zentrale Grundrechte von Frauen einzuschränken, um moralische Werte einer (vermuteten) Bevölkerungsmehrheit zu schützen. Mir scheint, die Mehrheit der Richter hat sich nicht Rechenschaft gegeben, was es für eine Frau heisst, während neun Monaten in ihrem Körper UNGEWOLLT einen Embryo/Fötus heranwachsen lassen und schliesslich gebären zu müssen.

Artikel 4 sowohl der EMRK wie der Allgemeinen Menschenrechtserklärung verbieten Leibeigenschaft und Zwangsarbeit. Eigenartigerweise wurde noch nie ein Abtreibungsverbot aufgrund dieser Artikel angefochten.

Was ist es anderes als Leibeigenschaft, wenn der Staat über den Körper einer Frau bestimmt oder ein Fötus von ihrem Körper gegen ihren Willen Besitz ergreift? Was ist Gebärzwang anderes als Zwangsarbeit? (Artikel 4 der EMRK spricht auf Englisch von „forced labour“, auf Französisch „travail forcé“ – sowohl „labour“ wie „travail“ bedeuten auch „Geburtswehen“).

Die Theologin Beverly Harrison schreibt in ihrem Buch Die neue Ethik der Frauen: „Der Zwang, eine Schwangerschaft auszutragen und zu gebären, ist am ehesten mit Leibeigenschaft zu vergleichen“. Und Dawn Johnsen, Rechtsprofessorin an der Indiana University School of Law, äusserte: “Regelungen, welche die Wahlfreiheit einer Frau in bezug auf Abtreibung einschränken, erinnern auf bedenkliche Weise an Leibeigenschaft“ (statutes that curtail a woman’s abortion choice are disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude).

In einer eventuellen nächsten Beschwerde an den EGMR in Sachen Abtreibung müsste meines Erachtens

  1. eine Verletzung von Artikel 4 der EMRK eingeklagt werden und

  2. argumentiert werden, es gebe in Europa einen sehr breiten Konsens, dass Personsein mit der Geburt beginnt und Artikel 2 der EMRK das vorgeburtliche Leben klar nicht einschliesst.


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