Sunday 8 December 2019

Foetal abnormalities will lead to court challenges

Fiach Kelly and Dearbhail McDonald

THE failure to provide legal terminations for pregnant women whose unborn have lethal foetal abnormalities (LFAs) could result in further legal challenges in the European courts, according to some legal experts.

On the second day of the all-party abortion hearings, TDs and Senators were told that termination of pregnancy for LFAs is already covered by the Constitution.

The plight of pregnant women whose unborn have LFAs was discussed at length by the Joint Committee on Health and Children following a day of submissions by a host of legal academics and practising lawyers.

University of Limerick law lecturer Jennifer Schweppe told the committee that where the foetus has no capacity to survive outside the womb, that is not life for the purposes of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

"We are talking about life which has the capacity to be born," said Ms Schweppe, adding that there was no need for a constitutional amendment where doctors are of the belief the foetus has no capacity to be born.

Ms Schweppe, who is heavily pregnant, called for value neutral terms in the debate.

"What is inside me now is a foetus, it is not a baby. I am not a mother, I am a pregnant woman," she told the committee.

Barrister Alan Brady of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said that there was a concern that the current legal position in Ireland in relation to LFAs potentially falls foul of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Mr Brady said that the Government had argued before the European Court of Human Rights in 2006, in the D v Ireland case, that it was possible to interpret the current Article 40.3.3 as permitting termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

Irish Independent

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