Savita case: Govt 'not obliged to legislate for abortion'

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Amid a controversy over the death of an Indian dentist, a Bishop in Ireland stressed that abortions and medical treatments are different and that the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish Government to legislate for abortion.

In a pastoral letter - The Right to Life - read at all Masses yesterday, Bishop John Buckley of of Cork and Ross said assurances were given before the Lisbon Treaty was passed, in October 2009, that Ireland had the right to determine its own policies on abortion.

He criticised the report of the Government-appointed expert group on abortion, set up in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in the A,B,C case, which found there was no accessible and effective procedure to enable C to establish if she qualified for a termination in accordance with Irish law.

The report came in the wake of the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar from blood poisoning at the Galway University Hospital on October 28 after doctors allegedly refused to perform an abortion stating "this is a Catholic country".

The A,B and C cases are a landmark cases of the European Court of Human Rights on the right to privacy. It held there is no right for women to an abortion, although it found that Ireland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide an accessible and effective procedure by which a woman can have established whether she qualifies for a legal abortion under current Irish law.

The report, published at the end of November, set out four options for the Government; non-statutory guidelines, statutory regulations, legislation alone and legislation plus regulations.

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