European Top Human Rights Court declines to hear legal attack on Poland’s pro-life protection for unborn babies with disabilities

Strasbourg (12 June 2023) – Is there a “right” to abort unborn babies with health conditions or special needs? 

This was the question raised before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg by an organised campaign of pro-abortion activists from Poland. On 8 June 2023 the Strasbourg Court rejected the application of eight Polish citizens claiming to be “potential victims”, of the recently changed Polish law protecting unborn children with disabilities from abortion. The applicants claimed that, hypothetically, they would not be granted abortions on the grounds of “fetal abnormalities” after the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland found that such a reason for an abortion would be contrary to the Polish constitution in 2020.   

ADF International intervened in the case in support of the legal protections for children with disabilities. The Strasbourg Court held that the women had failed to produce any evidence that they were personally affected by the changes in Polish law to protect unborn children with disabilities. As a result the Court dismissed their applications stating that they made claims which were hypothetical and too “remote and abstract” to be considered by the court.

“Every child has a right to life – regardless of her health conditions. Children with special medical needs should be protected and cared for, a truly humane society will care for its weakest members. This is why international law calls for “appropriate legal protection, [for children] before as well as after birth”, as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite the pressure of a large scale organised pro-abortion campaign, the European Court of Human Rights court has refused to hold there is a “right to abortion” in international law,” said Lorcán Price, Legal Counsel for the legal advocacy organization ADF International.   

The decision of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to protect unborn children with disabilities led abortion advocates to launch a legal campaign against Poland. In AM and Others v. Poland the applicants claim that as women of child- bearing age, legal protections for unborn children with special needs or health conditions infringed on their “right to respect for family and private life” as guaranteed in Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. However, Europe’s top human rights court has repeatedly confirmed, that “Article 8 cannot be interpreted as conferring a right to abortion.” (P. and S. v. Poland and A,B,C v. Ireland) 

“The constant efforts to dehumanize unborn babies with disabilities such as those with Down Syndrome are deeply unjust. Across Europe almost all babies who are prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted: nearly 100 percent in Iceland, 98 percent in Denmark and 90 percent in the United Kingdom. Countries must protect the rights of unborn children with disabilities, we have an obligation to act in accordance with basic human rights which extend to all people,” Price continued.