Bench Memos

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The Roe v. Wade of Europe


Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is hearing arguments in a case that some have dubbed the potential “Roe v. Wade of Europe.” The plaintiffs in ABC v. Ireland are challenging the right to life Ireland affords the unborn human members of its State.

While ECHR case law and the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) would decide the merits of the case in favor of Ireland, the mere fact that the Court is entertaining arguments is troubling.  Plaintiffs have failed to meet procedural requirements to get into court. Article 35 §1 of the Convention requires that all possible domestic remedies be exhausted before the ECHR has jurisdiction. However, dismissal on procedural grounds is unlikely, especially since the Court has made an unusual move referring the case to the Grand Chamber before the lower chamber issued an opinion.

A press release by the ECHR is also cause for concern that the Court is preparing to issue an activist opinion. The registrar notes that the women challenging the law all became pregnant “unintentionally.”  What relevance is the “intent” to create a human being to Ireland’s right to protect its life once created? (Not to mention, how can intentionality be an undisputed fact?) The statement seems to be stacking the deck towards an opinion that will abandon settled jurisprudence, impinge the sovereignty of Ireland, and result in a global assault on the unborn.

A consultant in the case, I am in Strasbourg for the arguments. 

– William Saunders is senior vice president of legal affairs for Americans United for Life.


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