The Irish Times – Thursday, November 22, 2012

PAUL CULLEN, Health Correspondent

The State has paid substantial compensation to a woman who was forced to travel to Britain for an abortion despite being terminally ill with cancer.

The case was settled in just three months, her solicitor, Michael Boylan, said yesterday.

Michelle Harte, Ardamine, Co Wexford, sued for violation of her human rights last year after a hospital ethics forum had decided against authorising an abortion on the basis that her life was not under “immediate threat”.

“This was resolved very, very quickly, which is unusual in my dealings with the State,” Mr Boylan said. Ms Harte, a former nurse from London, has since died of her cancer.

In 2010, after she became unintentionally pregnant while suffering from a malignant melanoma, doctors at Cork University Hospital advised her to terminate her pregnancy because of the risk to her health.

Mr Boylan said her obstetrician was willing to perform a termination but was “hamstrung” by legal issues. The issue was referred to the hospital’s “ad hoc” ethics committee.

Appalling delay

He said there was an absence of clear guidelines about what to do and an “appalling delay” ensued. After the committee refused the termination, there were further delays because Ms Harte did not have a passport.

“I couldn’t believe the decision [to refuse an abortion in Ireland] when it came,” Ms Harte, who was then 39, told The Irish Times in December 2010. “Apparently my life wasn’t at immediate risk. It just seemed absolutely ridiculous.”

Her condition worsened significantly during this time and she was not able to receive cancer treatment because she was pregnant. She eventually travelled to Britain for an abortion; she had to be helped on to the aircraft due to a deterioration in her condition.

Mr Boylan of Augustus Cullen Law then sued the State on her behalf for infringing her rights under the ABC case, in which the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland had breached the human rights of a woman with cancer who had to travel abroad to get an abortion.

In that case, the woman – “C” – had a rare form of cancer and feared it would relapse when she became unintentionally pregnant. However, the woman said she was unable to find a doctor willing to make a determination as to whether her life would be at risk if she continued to term.

Ms Harte’s lawyers served a statement of claim in May 2011 against the HSE, Ireland and the Attorney General. It was settled by July 2011. Mr Boylan declined to specify the amount but said it was substantial. Ms Harte died that November.

Mr Boylan said his client, a mother of one, was delighted not to have to go through the trauma of a court case and was pleased some compensation was available for her family.

In the worst way possible, a woman refused a life-saving abortion in Ireland has proved ‘pro-life’ advocates wrong

Jill Filipovic for Feministe, part of the Guardian Comment Network, Wednesday 14 November 2012 10.19 GMT

“This is a Catholic country,” was what Irish doctors told Savita Halappanavar after she learned she was miscarrying her pregnancy and asked for an abortion to avoid further complications. She spent three days in agonising pain, eventually shaking, vomiting and passing out. She again asked for an abortion and was refused, because the foetus still had a heartbeat.

Then she died.

She died of septicaemia and E Coli. She died after three and a half days of excruciating pain. She died after repeatedly begging for an end to the pregnancy that was poisoning her. Her death would have been avoided if she had been given an abortion when she asked for it – when it was clear she was miscarrying, and that non-intervention would put her at risk. But the foetus, which had no chance of survival, still had a heartbeat. Its right to life quite literally trumped hers.

US politicians and “pro-life” advocates like Joe Walsh will tell you that there are no circumstances under which women need abortions to avoid death or injury. The Republican platform doesn’t include an exception for medically necessary abortion. And the Republican party is trying to put laws similar to those in Ireland on the books in the United States – laws that would allow emergency room doctors to refuse to perform abortions, even in cases where the pregnant woman’s life or health depends on terminating the pregnancy. The GOP isn’t exactly the most science-friendly or fact-reliant crowd in the world, but to them, women like Savita either don’t exist or just don’t matter. As Jodie at RH Reality Check writes:

“These are the lives of your sister, your mother, your daughter, your aunt, your friends, and your colleagues. These are the lives at stake. These are the very people that the fanatical anti-choice and religious right see as ‘not people’.

They are all Savita Halappanavar.

We are all Savita Halappanavar.

But we do not have to die at the hands of misogynists.

In honour of Savita Halappanavar; in honour of the nearly 22 million women worldwide each year who endure unsafe abortion; in honour of the 47,000 women per year worldwide who die from complications of unsafe abortion and the estimated 10 times that number who suffer long-term health consequences; in honour of the millions of women who do not have access to contraception, who have no control over whether and with whom they have sex or whether or with whom they have children, we can fight back. In honour of the young girls married young and the women forced to bear children long past the point they are able to care for more … for all these women, we must continue to act, to liberalise abortion laws, ensure every woman has access, remove the stigma, and trust women, like Savita, who know when it is time to end even the most wanted pregnancy.”

Just two months ago, a consortium of Irish doctors got together to declare abortion medically unnecessary. They claimed that abortion is never needed to save a pregnant woman’s life, and stated: “We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

I’m pretty sure Savita Halappanavar would disagree. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get optimal care.



Protest the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland




To: Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Irish Prime Minister)

cc: Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore (Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs)




Copy also to the Irish Embassy in your country. Find contact details here:



Re: Death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway


Honourable Taoiseach,


We are writing to you to express our concern about the recent death of Savita Halappanavar, who was repeatedly denied an abortion in Galway. This tragic case demonstrates once again that the prohibition of abortion in Ireland is not just undermining the autonomy of the women across the country, it is leading to unacceptable suffering and even death.


Savita Halappanavar made repeated requests for an abortion after presenting at University Hospital Galway on 21 October while miscarrying during the 17th week of her pregnancy. Her requests were refused, and she died one week later after several days in agonising pain and distress.


The situation of Savita Halappanavar provides the clearest possible evidence that laws that permit abortion only to save the life of a woman, such as the Irish law, are clinically unworkable and ethically unacceptable. There are numerous clinical situations in which a serious risk posed to a pregnant woman’s health may become a risk to her life, and delaying emergency action only increases that risk. There is only one way to know if a woman’s life is at risk: wait until she has died. Medical practitioners must be empowered by law to intervene on the grounds of risk to life and health, rather than wait for a situation to deteriorate.


You will be aware that the European Court of Human Rights, as well as a number of United Nations human rights bodies, have called upon the Irish government to bring its abortion law in line with international human rights standards. Had these calls been heeded before now, the death of Savita Halappanavar would have been prevented.


With the death of Savita Halappanavar, Ireland joins the ranks of countries worldwide where abortion is denied to women and leads to their deaths.


We call on your government to take urgent and decisive steps to reform the legislation that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar. Until the Irish legal system is reformed the lives, health and autonomy of women across Ireland are in jeopardy.


Yours faithfully,

Myths and facts presented out of context are all too common in the debate about abortion in Ireland . Misinformation extends to even the most basic questions: Who are the women who obtain abortions? Why do they decide to end a pregnancy? Is abortion available in Ireland ? Abortion in Ireland is a new video developed by the Irish Family Planning Association to facilitate dialogue on abortion and to dispel myths that stigmatise women who seek abortion services.


The IFPA produced this resource because we want to change the way people talk and think about abortion in Ireland —we think discussions on abortion should be informed by facts. We believe that for too long abortion has been left in the shadows and the women who have had abortions have been stigmatised. Inspired by the Guttmacher Institute’s Abortion in the US video, this animation sets the record straight about abortion in Ireland is intended as a contribution to changing opinions, informing discussions and breaking the stigma.


Link to our new YouTube clip. Please help us get the message out there by sharing on your social media networks and your websites.

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.

(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.


Pharmacists in OTC pill call

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has backed a call from Choice Ireland for the morning after pill to be made available without a doctor’s prescription.

Choice Ireland , a group of pro-choice activists, has called for emergency contraception to be made available-over- the-counter (OTC) after a report that a GP in Co. Kerry refused to prescribe it on “religious and ethical” grounds, and the woman concerned had to travel to Cork the next day to get a prescription.

Medical Council ethics rules state that where a doctor has a conscientious objection to providing a particular treatment, he or she must make the names of other doctor who might provide the treatment available to the patient.

The IPU said pharmacists have the skills and competencies to dispense the morning afer pill and provide appropriate advice and counselling to such patients.

Meath pharmacist Kathy Maher said it was important that patients get timely access to emergency hormonal contraception, but many often find it difficult to get a prescription at the weekend and come into pharmacies urgently looking for the morning-after pill.

She said the morning-after pill should not be the only form of contraception used and pharmacists could also refer patients back to their GP, where appropriate, for a consultation on their contraceptive choices once the morning after pill has been dispensed.

The IPU pointed out that a study published in the British Medical Journal after patients in the UK were enabled to access emergency hormonal contraception directly from pharmacists found that it did not appear to have led to an increase in its use or to a decrease in the use of other forms of contraception.

The morning-after pill can be taken for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex but the earlier it is taken, the more effective it is.

Sinead Ahern, spokeswoman for Choice Ireland, said: “the need for a prescription to obtain the morning after pill is a significant burden in itself. A women must first find a GP who will see her – which can be difficult at the weekend, when demand for the pill is highest – and then pay the roughly €60 visit fee, on top of the charge for the pill.”

She said the longer the delay, the less effective the pill is and the more likely a crisis pregnancy will result. “This poses a particular problem for women in rural areas where access to GPs can be very limited, especially at weekends.”

The Medical Council’s latest ethics guidelines state that doctors must must not allow their personal moral standards to influence their treatment of patients.

“If you have a conscientious objection to a course of action, you should explain this to the patient and make the names of other doctors available to them. Conscientious objection does not absolve you from responsibility to a patient in emergency circumstances,” the guidelines state.

Dear Choice Supporter,

Choice Ireland has a lot of ideas on how to advance the struggle for choice in Ireland. The problem is, they cost money, and we don’t have any! We’re a small voluntary activist organisation which survives entirely on donations – unlike our opponents, who receive huge amounts of funding from the Irish political establishment, the Catholic Church and a number of dodgy right-wing American groups.

So we can’t afford to rent plush offices in the city centre or run slick cinema ads – but there is more that we could do with just a little bit of help. Even 1€  from all of you would make an enormous difference!

There are several easy ways to donate:

1. By electronic funds transfer to our bank account (Bank of Ireland –College Green, Sort Code 90-00-17, Account No 86759412)
2. By post to PO Box 11773, Dublin 1
3. By Paypal to

We know everyone’s stretched these days, but any amount at all that you can spare would be greatly appreciated. Even if it’s only €1. Really, we’d be delighted to receive it.

Thanks in advance. And we promise not to ask you again for a long long time.

In solidarity,
Choice Ireland.

Choice Ireland have again called for emergency contraception to be made available over the counter after a report that a GP refused to prescribe it on “religious and ethical” grounds.

The Kerryman newspaper reported this week that a young woman who attended the Tralee SouthDoc out-of-hours clinic on Sunday was turned away and had to travel to Cork the next day to get a prescription.

Spokesperson Sinéad Ahern said:

“The need for a prescription to obtain the morning after pill is a significant burden in itself. A women must first find a GP who will see her – which can be difficult at the weekend, when demand for the pill is highest – and then pay the roughly €60 visit fee, on top of the charge for the pill. The longer the delay, the less effective the pill is and the more likely a crisis pregnancy will result. This poses a particular problem for women in rural areas where access to GPs can be very limited, especially at weekends.

“It is totally unacceptable that a woman who is able to see a GP can nonetheless be denied the pill on the basis of that GP’s personal views. Medical professionals should act professionally and not allow their religious or ethical beliefs to interfere with the job they are paid to do. It is incumbent on the HSE to ensure that patients are not placed in a position where the only doctor available to them is allowed an ‘opt-out’ of the treatment they require.

“Such incidents only reinforce the need for emergency contraception to be made available over the counter in pharmacies. This is already the case in the North of Ireland, Britain and many other countries in Europe. Irish women should have the same right of access to the medical care we need, when we need it.” ENDS