Unborn rights’ judgment makes Eighth Amendment even more important: PLC

Unborn rights’ judgment makes Eighth Amendment even more important: PLC Chief Justice Frank Clarke
Alex Ferns


The Supreme Court ruling that the right to life is the only constitutional right the unborn have in Ireland makes it more important than ever that that right be protected, the Pro Life Campaign (PLC) has said.

Today’s decision, PLC legal adviser Prof. William Binchy said, makes the retention of the Eighth Amendment, protecting the lives of unborn children, all the more vital.

“The Supreme Court’s judgment makes it all the more necessary to oppose the Government’s proposal to introduce abortion on demand. The Court has made it clear that unborn babies, up to birth, would have no constitutional protection against the legislation that the Government intends to introduce,” he said.

This decision concerned a Nigerian man, his partner and their child, with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan having appealed a High Court ruling that – following the 2012 children’s rights referendum – the unborn have, as children, rights beyond the right to life.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke and his fellow Supreme Court judges, however, unanimously ruled rights beyond life only arise upon birth. They did, though, agree with the High Court that when considering the case of a potential deportee, the Minister for Justice should take account of whether the non-citizen’s partner is expecting a child who would be entitled to rights upon birth.

The judgement reverses the August 2016 ruling by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys that an unborn is “clearly a child” and that article 42a of Bunreacht na hÉireann imposes duties upon the State towards unborn children, who, he said, have significant legal rights far beyond their right to life.

Unborn children, he had said, have “significant” rights under common law, by statute and under the Constitution, “going well beyond the right to life alone”.

The decision to reverse his judgement frees the Government to decide upon and publish the wording of the planned referendum on repealing Ireland’s constitutional protections for the unborn, with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone saying she believes the judgment has brought “clarity” and that she hopes the referendum “can proceed as quickly as possible”.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he is considering the judgement and awaiting the advice of the Attorney General with the intention of bringing a memo to Cabinet containing the final wording of the referendum bill.

Mr Harris has previously expressed an intention to hold the referendum before the end of May.