Fact Sheet: A, B and C v. Ireland

In 2005, three women challenged the Irish law on abortion after being forced to travel abroad to obtain an abortion. The Irish law currently only allows abortion when a woman's life is in danger, and this exception is vague and difficult to interpret. The three women, Applicants A, B, and C, argued that the law violated, among other rights, their right to private life and their right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment. On December 16, 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland had violated the right to private life of one of the applicants, Applicant C. She had a rare form of cancer and feared that it might relapse as a result of her pregnancy, but she had no way of determining whether the danger to her life was significantly serious to qualify for an abortion under Irish law. The Court asserted that there were significant shortcomings in Irish medical practice to protect a woman's life and that the state must legislate for abortion services when a woman's life is in danger. With regard to the other two applicants, who had challenged Ireland's refusal to allow for abortion for reasons of health and wellbeing, the Court found no violation. The Center for Reproductive Rights and the University of Toronto International Reproductive and Sexual Health law Programme submitted a joint friend-of-the-court brief to the Court, supporting the claims of the three applicants.

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