The European Court of Human Rights today ruled that Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion violates a woman’s right to proper medical care in life-threatening cases. The Strasbourg, France-based court awarded $20,000 in damages to a Lithuanian woman living in Ireland who was undergoing chemotherapy to treat cancer when she became pregnant. Doctors believed the pregnancy might cause a relapse, but refused to authorize an abortion, afraid it might violate Irish law, Bloomberg reports. She ultimately traveled to England to get the abortion.
The ruling will pressure, but not force, Ireland to amend its laws. A 1992 Irish Supreme Court ruling made abortions legal if the mother’s life was in danger. But the penalty for unnecessary abortions is life in prison, which is “a significant chilling factor” for doctors and patients, the judge ruled today. But he threw out two other challenges from women who didn't want a child, saying that given the "profound moral values of the Irish people" in the matter, Ireland had the right to limit abortion.