Belfast Telegraph

EU abortion compliance case closed

Europe's Committee of Ministers has closed a case against Ireland over abortion after the Government introduced laws setting out when the controversial procedure was permitted.

The group of influential decision-makers monitors EU member states' compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Republic was found by one of Europe's highest courts to have breached a woman's convention right to privacy by forcing her to take complex legal proceedings to determine whether she qualified for a lawful abortion.

But legislation introduced by the Government this year led to the production of detailed guidance on the circumstances in which a woman may legally have a termination - when there is a real and substantial threat to her life.

A spokesman for the Committee of Ministers, which includes foreign ministers from all member states, said: "Ireland has taken the necessary steps to implement the judgment and so closed the case."

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act provides for a woman's right to an abortion in Ireland if her life is at risk, including - most contentiously - from suicide.

Detailed guidelines resulting from the legislation have been issued to some health professionals.

The law was drawn up amid a public outcry over the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died in hospital in 2012.

She had been denied an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

Her widower, Praveen, claimed the couple had been told a termination was not allowed because "Ireland is a Catholic country".

The death happened despite an earlier court case addressing the matter.

In 1992, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment, known as the X case, ruling that abortion should be allowed if there was a threat to the mother's life. The case involved a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission by the authorities to travel to the UK for an abortion.

In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights said ordinary medical consultation between women and doctors in Ireland was still ineffective because doctors risked criminal conviction if an initial doctor's opinion that abortion was an option as it posed a risk to the woman's health was later found to be against the Irish Constitution.

The Strasbourg judgment surrounded the treatment of a woman in remission with cancer who was forced to travel overseas for a termination.

Judges found a violation of the European Convention enshrining human rights due to the absence of any accessible and effective procedure by which the woman could have established whether she qualified for a lawful abortion in Ireland and awarded her 15,000 euro in damages.

The Committee of Ministers said the missing procedure was established through the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 and the related regulations and guidance document.

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