A, B and C v. Ireland |2010

Landmark judgment leads to change in abortion law

[The] decision is a landmark one for Ireland and, in particular, for women and girls.

Niall Behan, Chief Executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, speaking in 2010


C. found out she was pregnant not long after she finished chemotherapy for a rare form of cancer. She was scared about the impact the pregnancy might have on her health.

At the time, abortion was a crime in Ireland, although a legal ruling had established a woman’s right to abortion if her life was at risk because of pregnancy.

C. said she could not get proper information from doctors about the risks involved with her pregnancy. Believing that she could not establish her right to abortion in Ireland, C. travelled to England to have the procedure in 2005. 

Along with two other women, A. and B., C. decided to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A. and B. had also travelled to England for abortions in 2005, alone and in secret. 

The three women claimed that Ireland’s abortion ban stigmatised and humiliated them, risked damaging their health and, in C.’s case, her life.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that Ireland had violated C.’s human rights because there was no accessible and effective procedure by which she could establish that she qualified for a lawful abortion.

The court did not find that Ireland had violated the rights of A. and B. 


The judgment directly led to the adoption of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, which set out a legal framework for establishing whether people qualify for lawful abortion in Ireland. 

The new law provided criteria to be used and steps to be taken when assessing the risk to a woman’s life from a pregnancy. It also set up a review process to allow women to challenge decisions taken by medical professionals.


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