This morning, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) heard arguments in the case ABC v. Ireland. A consultant in the case, Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs William Saunders reports from Strasbourg:
“As the government of Ireland emphasized in oral arguments before the Grand Chamber today, this case has not satisfied the prerequisites for review by the ECHR because the plaintiffs have only made vague unsupported statements and there is not a record for review.
“For instance, plaintiffs alleged that they could not get meaningful review of their case in Ireland, but they made no effort to seek that review! Plaintiffs also claim they came to the ECHR because they would not have been afforded relief in time by the Irish courts. The simple fact is, however, by the time the case came to the ECHR, the pregnancy of each plaintiff had already ended, whether by natural means or by abortion. Thus, the ECHR could not have possibly given more timely attention than the Irish courts.
“A string of assertions was made by the plaintiffs about “human rights law” and “European consensus” in favor of abortion – all of which was undocumented. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, what they said was true, none of it was relevant to the interpretation of a human rights treaty agreed to 40 years ago.
“Plaintiffs’ argument reminded me of the saying we learned in law school: ‘if you don’t have the law argue the facts.’ They endlessly recounted details of the three anonymous women’s lives in an attempt to invoke sympathy from the judges and distract from the law.
“The Irish government also pointed out that the best established principle of European jurisprudence is to leave matters like abortion for each independent nation to decide.
“As predicted this case over the contentious issue of abortion drew protestors…Irish young people supporting the right to life!
“It is astonishing that with thousands of applications made to the Court that can only hear 48 cases per year, it would waste its time hearing a case with no evidentiary record and no lower court decision.
“The Court’s decision last month to prohibit the display of a crucifix in Italian classrooms has also generated a lot of protests. Should the Court issue another activist opinion in this case it could lead to demise of the ECHR. The question is, would that be a bad thing?”