European Commissioner Calls for Change to Ireland's Abortion Law


The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner has demanded that Ireland change its laws on abortion to make it more widely available. Commissioner Nils Muižnieks (a former director of the Soros Foundation) claimed that the 2013 abortion act is too restrictive and has a “chilling” effect on doctors who must decide who meets its requirements.


The Council, not part of the European Union, is a pan-European body concerned primarily with the region's human rights. Mr Muižnieks made his criticisms of Ireland’s abortion law in a report covering a range of human rights issues in Ireland.


“Culturally, politically, socially, Ireland has changed significantly and I think that is not reflected in the current regime,” he said. Mr Muižnieks recommended that at a very minimum, the Irish government should decriminalise abortion “within reasonable gestational limits” and widen the law to allow for abortion in cases of “fatal foetal abnormality”, rape or incest.


In a letter responding to the recommendations, the Irish government said the current laws do not prevent a doctor communicating in a normal way with regards to a patient’s care.


The Iona Institute said that Mr Muižnieks’ report is not binding and has “about as much legal weight as a feather”. Iona’s Dr Angelo Bottone pointed out that the opinion “is totally unsupported by the Council of Europe’s main judicial institution, the European Court of Human Rights.”


“The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent non-judicial institution established by the Council of Europe. The Commissioner visits countries that are members of the Council and expresses opinions and recommendations to local governments. His reports don’t get approved by the statutory bodies of the Council of Europe and are not binding in any sense.”


There is no right to abortion in the most fundamental document of the Council of Europe, namely the European Convention on Human Rights. In fact, the European Court for Human Rights, which was established on the basis of the Convention, in its ruling on the ABC case requested Ireland to clarify the legislation regarding abortion but did not create any right to abortion. Nor has it done so in any other case.

The Independent/Reuters. March 30. Iona Institute. March 31.

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