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“Braxton Hick’s” or the Birth of a New Era? Tracing the Development of Ireland’s Abortion Laws in Respect of European Court of Human Rights Jurisprudence

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In Ireland, Article 40.3.3° of Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution) guarantees the right to life of the unborn child and the equal right to life of the mother. Abortion in Ireland is permissible only where there is a real and substantial risk to the mother’s own life. Since Ireland became a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights in 1950,2 there have been concerns that it could result in Ireland being compelled to introduce a right to abortion.3 This article commences with a review of the extant law on abortion in Ireland, tracing the Constitutional protection afforded to the unborn child. The article will discuss the impact of the European Court of Human Rights’4 jurisprudence in regard to access to abortion and to information on abortion services in Ireland in an effort to ascertain if it really has resulted in a radical change to Irish abortion laws. As such, it will also be necessary to examine the more recent decisions of the ECtHR such as Tysiac v. Poland,5 and A, B, and C v. Ireland,6 to determine both the approach of the ECtHR to access to abortion in general and also to consider if it has resulted in a liberalisation of abortion law in Ireland.

Affiliations: 1: School of Law and Government, Dublin City University Glasnevin, Dublin 9 Ireland 00353-1-700-8154, Email:


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