Irish woman takes abortion case to court of human rights

IRISH women pregnant with babies with potentially fatal abnormalities should be able to have an abortion in Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights will be told today.

A 44-year-old woman is taking a case to the court in Strasbourg after she had to travel to Britain for an abortion three years ago.

Known only as ‘D’, the woman was expecting twins but tests found one had died and the other was suffering from a rare abnormality called Edwards Syndrome, which affects the heart, lungs and digestive system.

Most babies with the condition are stillborn. About 90% of those who are born die within a year.

With surgery, a small percentage live to their teens.

Because of Irish abortion law, her doctor was unable to advise her on termination or refer her to a clinic or another doctor.

The woman travelled to Britain for an abortion.

She was unable to avail of counselling in Britain, despite the possibility the condition could be genetic.

On her return to Ireland she needed follow-up medical treatment and had to tell her doctor and the hospital that she had miscarried.

Ms D’s case is that the “devastating impact” of the news that one of her babies was dead and the other was suffering from an almost certainly fatal defect was made worse by the fact that she had to travel abroad for an abortion.

Irish law limits what a doctor can tell a pregnant woman with a lethal foetal abnormality and forbids making proper arrangements or referrals for a therapeutic abortion abroad.

She also complained she had been discriminated against as a pregnant woman and as a pregnant woman with a lethal foetal abnormality under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Human rights barrister Barbara Hewson is representing Ms D in the case against the Irish State.

The decision will be made known in a few months.

Last month, three women announced they were taking similar cases to the Strasbourg court with the help of the Irish Family Planning Association.

Their spokesperson, Ivana Bakic, said: “It could make a difference to abortion law in this country and could even force the State to allow abortions under more circumstances than just the woman’s life being at risk.”

However, any changes may require another referendum, she added.

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