16.12.2010 – Press Conference – ECHR Judgment does not require Ireland to introduce abortion legislation

16.12.2010 – Press Conference – ECHR Judgment does not require Ireland to introduce abortion legislation


16th December 2010

Remarks by Professor William Binchy at the Pro Life Campaign Press Conference, Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2, 2.30pm 

Today's judgment from the European Court of Human Rights will require detailed analysis over coming days but some clear points emerge immediately. The most important is that the judgment does not require Ireland to introduce legislation authorising abortion. On the contrary, it fully respects the entitlement of the Irish people to determine legal policy on protecting the lives of unborn children. The Irish people must now make a choice. If they were to choose to endorse the Supreme Court decision in X, this would involve legalising abortion contrary to existing medical practice and the best evidence of medical research. If on the other hand, the Irish people choose to endorse the current medical practice, they will be ensuring the continuation of Ireland’s world renowned safety record for mothers and babies during pregnancy.

The evidence over the past 18 years contradicts the medical assumptions of the X case decision. [1] [2] It is crucial to note that the judges in the X case heard no medical evidence. In the years since the ruling, the evidence has steadily built up confirming the opposite of what the judges had assumed – women who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide than women who continue with their pregnancy. [3]

The suggestion that because of this country’s pro-life ethos pregnant women are denied necessary medical treatments is simply not true. In fact, Ireland is a world leader in safety for pregnant mothers. The latest UN report on the safety of mothers during pregnancy found, of all 172 countries for which estimates are given, Ireland leads the world when it comes to safety for pregnant women.[4]

Women are safer in Ireland when pregnant than in countries like Britain and Holland, which permit abortion on demand. Given our record in maternal care, the question has to be asked, why are some people proposing to blur the time-honoured distinction between necessary medical treatments in pregnancy and the deliberate targeting of the baby in the womb with the aim of ending its life?

The most recent opinion poll findings show that 70% of the public support constitutional protection for the unborn,13% oppose it and 16% don’t know or have no opinion.[5]  What marks this finding out from polls showing support for abortion is the distinction it makes between necessary medical treatments in pregnancy and induced abortion, where the aim of the procedure is to target the life of the unborn child.

By all means, let us debate the abortion issue openly, honestly and with all the facts in front of us. But equally, we cannot shy away from the implications of what legal abortion would involve and the brutal reality of abortion, legal up to birth, in countries like Britain.

What we need now is a calm, respectful national discussion, in which the latest medical and scientific evidence is fully considered leading to a solution at a Constitutional level, which will ensure the full protection of all human beings, mothers and unborn children, on the basis of respect for their equal dignity and worth.  What’s at stake in this debate is the value of life, and the sad experience is that once laws permitting abortion are introduced, they diminish the society’s respect for the inherent value of every human life, born or unborn.

Any revisiting of the X case decision would need to take on board the evidence from these new studies that abortion involves significant risks for some women.  Based on the current state of medical evidence alone, it would be irresponsible simply to introduce legislation along the lines of the X ruling as it would put at risk the mother’s life as well as taking the baby’s.

[1] David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood and Joseph M. Boden, "Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study," The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008), 2008, pp. 444-451

[2] Position Statement on Women’s Mental Health in Relation to Induced Abortion, Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK (2008)

[3] The European Journal of Public Health 2005 15 (5): 459-463, Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy in Finland by Mika Gissler, Cynthia Berg, Marie Helene Bouvier-Colle and Pierre Buekens.

[4] Report on Maternal Mortality by World Health Organisation, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank, (2007, 2010)

[5] Millward Brown Lansdowne survey on a quota controlled sample of 950 people aged 18+ between 27th January and 6th February 2010.

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