Europe’s Roe v. Wade?

An excellent student note by Shannon K. Calt, forthcoming in the Lewis & Clark Law Review, explains the case of A. B. & C. v. Ireland, currently pending before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The case challenges the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which prohibits abortion under almost all circumstances. The Amendment was added by the Irish people in order to prevent the judicial creation of a right to abortion, as in Roe v. Wade. As the note explains, subsequent case law had held that the Irish government cannot forbid Irish women from traveling to England to obtain legal abortions there. The note predicts two possible outcomes for the A., B. & C. case: 1. the ECHR will require Ireland to provide better post-abortion medical care to Irish women who need medical services after obtaining an English abortion. OR 2. The ECHR will create a right to abortion. The latter decision, suggests the note, would be predicated on the ECHR characterizing Ireland’s interest in its constitutional amendment as merely involving “morals,” rather than the protection of innocent life. A decision of the Grand Chamber (17 members, en banc) is binding on all nations which have signed the European Convention on Human Rights.

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