PRESS RELEASE National Women’s Council of Ireland call for interim measures to vindicate the rights of women with life threatening pregnancies
4 Apr 2012
04 April 2012
The NWCI welcomes the move by the Council of Europe to question the Irish government on what interim measures it has in place to respond to women with life threatening pregnancies, while the government ponders over the implementation the 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C case. It is clear from the response by the Minister for Health, James Reilly, T.D. in the Dail this week that no interim measures are in place and that there has been little progress since the judgement was handed down in December 2010.
Orla O Connor, Acting CEO said "the situation for women with life threatening pregnancies has remained the same since the X case twenty years ago. Clearly there is an urgent need for interim measures. The introduction of legislation to give effect to the X case judgement would act as an interim measure to ensure that women in these circumstances have timely access to a lawful abortion in cases where there is a real and substantive risk to their lives."
"Access to safe and legal abortion services is a human rights issue. By criminalising abortion in almost all circumstances, Ireland's restrictive abortion laws deny women the most fundamental rights to privacy, to self-determination and to exercise these rights without discrimination. 4,422 women travelled to have an abortion in 2010. The lack of interim measures to provide services to women with life threatening pregnancies forces extremely ill women to travel abroad to access abortion services and to incur all the stress, expense and physical hardship that this implies. This situation cannot be tolerated anymore. NWCI call on the government to introduce interim measures as a matter of urgency."
Response by the Minister for Health to a Parliamentary Question in relation to the COE Committee of Ministers comments:
Question 241: To ask the Minister for Health in view of the March 2012 decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in relation to the execution of the judgement in the case of A, B and C versus Ireland, which noted that, given the current status of execution of the judgement, the question is raised of how whilst waiting form measures to execute the judgement to be adopted, the situation of women who find themselves in a similar position to the third applicant is addressed and which expressed concern regarding the situation of such women: the interim measures that are in place to ensure that women in circumstances similar to those experienced by Applicant C have access to the services to which they are entitled under the Irish constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17435/12]
James Reilly (Minister, Department of Health): If a case similar to Ms C were to arise, it would be the responsibility of her doctor to determine whether there is a real and substantial risk to her life, as distinct from her health, and if such risk can only be avoided by terminating the pregnancy, i.e. the X case criteria. A termination can lawfully occur if these criteria are met. If the patient does not agree with her doctor's assessment, she is free to seek a second or subsequent medical opinion under Medical Council Guidelines, or could apply to the High Court for orders directing the necessary treatment to be provided.
If a doctor refuses to give necessary life-saving treatment, the applicant could in the first instance seek a second opinion for immediate management of her concerns and as follow up bring a complaint against that doctor to the Medical Council.
The law of tort also exists to vindicate the rights of any person who is given negligent or substandard medical advice. I would also point out that the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 would apply and be of relevance. First, in general terms, the legislation imposes obligations on organs of the State to perform their functions in a manner compatible with the State's obligations under the Convention. Secondly, it requires that judicial notice shall be taken of, inter alia , any judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While the Government understands that the scenarios described above were not deemed satisfactory or appropriate by the ECtHR, they do provide an interim process until the Expert Group on the A,B and C v Ireland judgment of the ECtHR issues its recommendations.