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Europe rights court hears Ireland abortion law challenge

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) [official website] held a hearing [press release; video] Wednesday in a case brought by three women alleging that current Irish abortion [JURIST news archive] laws violate their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The three women, who all traveled to the UK to have abortions, lodged the complaint in July 2005, alleging that the current Irish abortion laws make the procedure "unnecessarily expensive, complicated, and traumatic." The complaint invokes the Article 2 right to life, Article 3 prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, and Article 8 right to respect for private and family life of the Convention. The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) [advocacy websites] are both supporting the women's suit. The IFPA commented [press release] that "women and girls' rights are disproportionately infringed upon by the inaccessibility and criminalisation of safe and legal abortion services in Ireland." A judgment is expected [Irish Times report] in six to eight months.

Abortion laws in Europe vary widely and have been the subject of much social and political debate. Irish and Spanish abortion laws are among the most restrictive in Europe. One of the main concerns of Irish voters during the Lisbon Treaty [JURIST news archive] referendum [JURIST report] was that it would affect Irish abortion laws. In September, the Spanish Council of State [official website, in Spanish] unanimously approved [JURIST report] a proposed law [text, DOC; in Spanish] that would relax abortion restrictions, leading to widespread protests [JURIST report].

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