[JURIST] The High Court of Ireland [official website] on Friday ruled that a doctor can switch off the life support of a brain dead woman who is 18 weeks pregnant. The judgment [The Guardian report] made by the panel of judges challenges the Irish Constitution in regards to the separate rights between a mother and her unborn child. Responding to the challenge, Judge Nicholas Kearns stated, “…in the circumstances of this case, that it is in the best interests of the unborn child; it should authorize at the discretion of the medical team the withdrawal of ongoing somatic support being provided in this tragic and unfortunate case.” The woman has been on life support since November, with doctors reluctant to make a decision. The family of the woman and unborn child is comfortable with the decision made by the High Court and believe that it is the appropriate answer. The decision has sparked more action by pro-choice advocates to push for a constitutional referendum to address issues of abortion rights in Ireland.
Abortion [JURIST backgrounder] is a continuing controversial topic within the neighboring state of Northern Ireland. This month the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) [advocacy website] announced that it planned to file a lawsuit challenging the region’s law against abortions. Northern Ireland’s current abortion law was proposed shortly after the 2013 death of Savita Halappanavar [BBC report], a 31-year-old dentist who was denied a potentially life saving abortion. Following her death, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore [official website] pledged [JURIST report] to bring “legal clarity” to the country’s abortion laws. Northern Ireland’s abortion law differs from those of the rest of the UK, and this lawsuit has been long-awaited by international rights groups. In October Ireland’s Department of Justice announced [BBC report] that it would consult with the public in regards to changing the law, but the NIHRC did not believe that this effort was acted upon in a timely manner.