Publication of the Report of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland

The Government today (27th November, 2012) published the Report of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland. This report provides background information on the topic of termination of pregnancy in Ireland, and sets out options for the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the A, B and C v Ireland case.

On foot of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v Ireland case, and to fulfil a commitment included in the Programme for Government, the Government established an Expert Group to make recommendations on how this matter should be properly addressed.

The terms of reference of the Group were as follows:

The Expert Group was made up of experts in the fields of obstetrics, psychiatry, general practice, law, professional regulation and public policy. It was chaired by a judge of the High Court, Honourable Justice Mr. Sean Ryan.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting the Minister for Health said-

“I welcome the publication of this report and wish to thank the Expert Group for their commitment and their dedication to this work and for the invaluable contribution they have made in bringing clarity to this complex and sensitive issue”

The Report will be available on the Department of Health Website at www.dohc.ie/publications/Judgement_ABC.html

Notes for Editors

A was a woman living in poverty with four children who were in care. She became pregnant accidentally. At that time, she was attempting to reunite her family, and felt unable to cope with a fifth child. She travelled to the UK for an abortion.

B was a single woman who became pregnant when emergency contraception failed. She did not consider that she could care for a child at that time in her life, and travelled to the UK for an abortion.

C had been treated for cancer for three years. When she became unintentionally pregnant she was in remission, and being unaware of this fact, went for a series of follow-up tests related to her illness which were contraindicated during early pregnancy. She was unable to obtain clear medical advice as to the effect of the pregnancy on her health/life or as to the effect of the medical treatment on the foetus, and feared the possibility that the pregnancy might lead to a recurrence of the cancer. She decided to have an abortion and travelled to the UK for the procedure.

The A, B and C v Ireland Judgment

The judgment of the Court confirms that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution is not inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court accepted that Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case, provides that it is lawful to terminate a pregnancy in Ireland if it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother, which can only avoided by a termination of the pregnancy. This has not been altered by this judgment. The Court dismissed the applications of Ms A and Ms B finding that there had been no violation of their rights under the Convention.

In the case of the third applicant, Ms C, the Court found that Ireland had failed to respect the applicant’s private life contrary to Article 8 of the Convention, as there was no accessible and effective procedure to enable her to establish whether she qualified for a lawful termination of pregnancy in accordance with Irish law. The Court ruled that "no criteria or procedures have been... laid down in Irish law... by which that risk is to be measured or determined, leading to uncertainty…" and held that further legal clarity was required.

Judgment of Court is Binding

Ireland has signed and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, article 46 of which states that signatories agree to abide by any judgment of the Court in any case to which they are parties. Ireland is therefore under a legal obligation to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in A, B and C v Ireland.

Monitoring Process

Supervision of Ireland’s execution of the judgment falls to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Ireland has already submitted two reports to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (in June 2011 and January 2012). A further action plan in this regard is due to be submitted by the end of November 2012.

ENDS

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