ADF International


A., B. and C. v. Ireland

Date of most recent action: 16 Dec 2010

ECHR confirms there is no “right to abortion” under international law

What’s at Stake

The right to life from conception to natural death
The right of a sovereign nation to protect life in its constitution


Ireland’s constitution has protected unborn life ever since 1983. This is when the people of Ireland voted in a referendum to adopt an amendment which banned abortion. Abortion was already illegal in the country at the time, but this amendment was designed to ensure that it would not be legalized in the future.

Fast-forward to 2008, and this life-protecting amendment faced fierce opposition. Three women filed a claim against Ireland because of these laws protecting unborn life. The women ultimately obtained abortions in Britain (where abortion is legal), but launched a case at the European Court of Human Rights. They tried to establish a “right” to abortion that would override Ireland’s constitutional protections for the unborn.

The attempt failed. ADF International lawyers joined with other pro-life organizations to defend the human right to life of the unborn at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The Court dismissed the claims of two of the three women, making it clear that there is no “right” to abortion under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the third case, the Court found that Ireland should have provided clearer information on whether the woman could have legally obtained an abortion in Ireland. But even in this case, the Court confirmed that there is no “right” to abortion under the European Convention.

“The Court was right to reassert, and this time at its highest level, that there is no right to abortion under the Convention, but it’s regrettable that Ireland lost on the third count,” Roger Kiska, Senior Counsel, said.

“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless, and no one should force any sovereign nation to give up its right to protect life in its constitution if it so chooses,” added Kiska. “In this case, the court wisely upheld that right as it has done in the past.”

Our Role in the Case

ADF International submitted legal arguments to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights together with the Family Research Council, stating that Ireland is free to uphold constitutional protections for the unborn.

Legal Documents

Brief – 02 Sep 2009

Judgement – 16 Dec 2010

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Faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.