About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, December 17, 2010

What a legal mess! The Irish abortion case

I've spent much of the day ploughing through this 75-page judgment of the European Court of Human Rights relating to abortion laws in Ireland. H/T Ophelia Benson for bringing it to my attention over here.

The Irish law and the history behind it are fiendishly complicated. The way Irish law interacts with European human rights law is even more so. Oh, and the factual situations of the three cases before the court were not especially simple either. Suffice for the moment to say that all three cases involved women who'd had abortions in the UK as a result of the draconian Irish law which imposes a frakking life sentence on a woman who has an abortion!

In the upshot, only one of the three women before the court obtained any relief, and she probably didn't even get enough money to cover her legal costs.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. The case is complicated enough that this will have to be mainly a place-holder post. I'll have a bit more to say over the weekend. But I do have to throw up my hands in horror at the mess that Irish law has made of this simple issue of abortion, and the mess that has been made of it in European and international human rights regimes. The law on abortion should be straightforward: it should be completely legal, but there should be regulation of training, safety, etc., standards of clinics and other providers.

Ireland has created a terrible mess by creating laws, including constitutional provisions, that are influenced by religion. Human rights law has compounded the problem across the board, not just in Ireland, by allowing exceptions to human rights based restrictions on governments for the mere enforcement of positive morality. It's a mess all round, and enough of a mess to make a good Millian liberal angry.


Ophelia Benson said...

Thank you for doing the hard ploughing work.

Russell Blackford said...

Ugh. I meant to get back to it today, but I couldn't face it. Maybe tomorrow!