Council of Europe urges Government to implement ABC ruling

Thursday 06 December 2012 23.34
The Council of Europe will discuss the issue again at its March meeting next year
The Council of Europe will discuss the issue again at its March meeting next year

The Council of Europe has re-iterated its concern regarding the situation of women in Ireland who consider their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy.

The Council's Committee of Ministers today urged the Irish authorities to expedite the implementation of a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

Known as the ABC ruling, the court decided in 2010 that Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Ms C, a Lithuanian national living in Ireland who had been treated for cancer.

She became unintentionally pregnant in 2005, but was unable to find a doctor willing to determine whether her life would be at risk if she continued to term, so she travelled to England for an abortion

In its statement tonight, the Council's Committee of Ministers underlined their "concern regarding the situation of women who are of the opinion that their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy".

They "invited the Irish authorities to take all necessary measures" to implement the ECHR ruling.

Last month the Government submitted an action plan to the Council of Europe on both how it would implement the European Court of Human Rights judgement and interim measures.

Today the Committee "noted with satisfaction.... that the [Irish] authorities will decide on the option to be pursued to implement the judgment before 20 December 2012".

In a statement this evening, the Council said it would discuss the issues again at its March meeting next year.

Speaking to RTÉ News tonight, the Council's Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muiznieks, said: "If you have a provision that grants this legal possibility - in very limited circumstances - then there has to be some way for people to actually access this possibility."

"If you have a Court ruling - we're talking about the rule of law here - we are talking about implementing a Court ruling, as well as providing this provision"

"The Court leaves a large margin of appreciation to Member States on this - it's a very sensitive issue and there's no true consensus across Europe."

In the Dáil, a Fine Gael backbencher this evening called for a referendum on the abortion issue during a debate on the Expert Group's report.

James Bannon said he was puzzled by the Taoiseach's call for a calm debate to reach a consensus, as consensus could not be reached without a referendum to ascertain the wishes of the people.

He said that as a member of the Constitutional Convention he was aware of the need to look at the issue in the broader constitutional context.

Deputy Bannon said that Ireland was "not in the dark ages medically", and criticised the media coverage of the death of Savita Halappanavar.

He said he was "shocked that the sequence of events had, at best, been muddled, and at worst distorted".

Labour's Kevin Humphreys said he believed it was time to let women make their own decisions about their health.

He called for tolerance and respect for other people's views and said it was a fundamental right of women to have control over their own bodies.