Next government 'must legislate for limited abortion'
It is now up to a new government to legislate for limited abortion, leading feminist and academic Ailbhe Smyth told a pro-choice rally in Dublin yesterday.
The group which organised the rally, Feminist Open Forum, told the few dozen people who attended that the present government should immediately legislate for abortion in line with the X case judgement and there should be no question of a further referendum.
They called on the Labour Party to make the legislation a core demand of their programme for government.
The abortion issue moved centre stage once again, with the likelihood that an incoming government will have to legislate for limited abortion, after the Strasbourg-based Court of Human Rights ruled that a woman with cancer who travelled out of Ireland to terminate her pregnancy while in remission had her human rights violated.
She was one of three unnamed women fighting a landmark battle to overturn Ireland's abortion laws, but cases by two other women failed.
The woman claimed her life had been put at risk by being forced to travel to England for an abortion.
The court effectively ruled that Ireland breached her private life as it had failed to implement the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion under the X case judgement in 1992. Under that case, the Supreme Court ruled that terminating a pregnancy is lawful where the life of a mother is at risk.
However, politicians have shied away from enacting legislation to give effect to that judgement.
Labour spokeswoman Jan O'Sullivan said there is now an obligation on all parties in the Oireachtas to face up to the implications of the court ruling and introduce legislation to "provide for the right to the termination of a pregnancy in this country in the very limited circumstances specified in the judgement".
Her colleague Senator Ivana Bacik said the Government should introduce legislation now.
However, the Government said it would examine the judgement carefully and consider what steps are required to implement it.
Health Minister Mary Harney accepted that legislation would be needed to implement the court's decision but indicated this was unlikely to happen before the next election.
Cardinal Sean Brady, the Catholic Primate of All Ireland, said the judgement left future policy in Ireland on protecting the lives of the unborn in the hands of the Irish people and does not oblige Ireland to introduce legislation authorising abortion.
But he acknowledged that the judgement raised profound moral and legal issues which would require careful analysis and reflection by the Catholic bishops.
The militant anti-abortion group Youth Defence described the European Court ruling as "intrusive, unwelcome and an attempt to violate Ireland's pro-life laws".
The Irish Family Planning Association welcomed the unanimous "landmark" decision by the court that abortion, in certain circumstances, should be legalised in Ireland.
The National Women's Council welcomed the ruling that Ireland had failed to vindicate women's constitutional rights.