BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster (scroll to 2:13:13) Lorcan Príce, a barrister with ADF International, commented on the recent judgement of the Northern Irish High Court concerning the legislation on abortion. The decision suggests that existing law was incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.
“The judgement is made on the premise that there actually would be a right to abortion under the Convention of Human Rights,” explained Lorcan Príce. It implies that a state is in breach of the Convention, if it does not allow abortion in circumstances where a woman is the alleged victim of a crime or where the unborn child has a serious medical condition.
ECHR UPHOLDS RIGHT TO PROTECT LIFE
The courtroom should not be used as a substitute for democratic debate
Príce stresses that international law knows no right to abortion: “For nearly 20 years the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has held that it is perfectly legitimate for a state to protect unborn life.” The issue on abortion raises complex moral and policy questions and in this regard there is no consensus among the population. The courtroom should not be used as a substitute for democratic debate, argued Príce, stressing that judicial activism ought to be deemed the very “opposite of democracy”.
BABY GRACE – WHEN EXPERTS ERR
Another issue raised, concerned serious medical conditions (Fatal Foetal Abnormality) that might be detected with the child before birth. “We have to keep in mind, that judgements on the health of unborn children could be tragically flawed,” said Príce. He mentioned the case of Grace McBreen, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at an early stage of the pregnancy.
On every hospital visit the mother was urged to have Grace aborted. Doctors claimed, the unborn child would have a zero percent chance of survival. Today, Grace is a perfectly healthy two-year-old with Downs syndrome. “Experts are not always right. Children like Baby Grace will be the real victims if the law is changed,” argued Príce.
The most likely course of action is the appeal of the decision at the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General of Northern Ireland. This case may eventually end up being heard by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.