Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ECHR on abortion

The European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment today finding that the European Convention on Human Rights imposes an affirmative obligation on states parties to provide effective procedures for women to obtain abortions that are legal under national law. The case, Tysiąc v. Poland, concerned a woman who was denied an abortion after being warned by doctors that her pregnancy might put her already deteriorating eyesight at risk, even though Polish law permits abortions to safeguard a woman’s health. While the court relied on Article 8 of the Convention, which establishes the right to respect for private life, its analysis focused not on privacy as such, but on states’ responsibility under this provision to take positive measures to protect women’s physical integrity. Because therapeutic abortions are legal under Polish law, the court did not address the question of whether the Convention itself provides a right to abortion, leaving that issue for another day. However, it did note that Polish law criminalizing most abortions may have a chilling effect on doctors’ willingness to certify the need for a therapeutic abortion, for fear of prosecution. In this context, the court affirmed, transparent, efficient procedures for determining whether a woman’s condition meets the legal standards for a therapeutic abortion are all the more important to Poland’s Convention obligations.

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Two things come to mind. The first is that ECHR is going to have to stop avoiding 'sensitive moral questions' some time soon and start to narrow down the margin of appreciation so that countries like Ireland finally get a kick in the right direction and countries like Poland save themselves from their rapid descent into the catholic conservative abyss.

Secondly someone needs to start forcing Poland to play the European game properly. The Polish League of Families is nothing short of pseudo-fascist and the government could not be more homophobic if they tried. Not content with banning Pride, allowing people to chant about euthanasia for gays and putting lesbians in concentration camps (slogans clearly inspired by too many B movies about prison-based dyke drama) they are now introducing a s. 28 type provision to prevent the discussion of homosexuality in schools. As a colleague based in Warsaw said to me today 'this is Europe, not Alabama' (I fear this will outdo even my 'fluffy' comment)...

No wonder so many young people are leaving Poland - it's not only for the money in the rest of the EU, and it's certainly not for the hospitality (honestly...talk about hypocrisy from the Irish and many more towards new-EU emigrants) but for the freedom. I wonder whether anyone in Europe will have the guts to lay down the law (literally)...