Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



On May 12, 1995, the Supreme Court of Ireland upheld an act making it legal to disseminate information concerning abortion services abroad, provided that the information does not advocate or promote the termination of the pregnancy. While the Abortion Information Act of 1995 is likely to make it easier for an Irish woman to obtain an abortion overseas, it does not change the circumstances under which a woman may obtain an abortion in Ireland. Under the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, as interpreted by the Irish Supreme Court, abortion is illegal except where the pregnancy poses a substantial risk to the life of the mother.

Given the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland, pro-choice activists are unlikely to bring about further liberalization of Ireland's abortion law using the domestic political process. It is possible, however, that the European Court of Human Rights will find that the privacy clause in the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to have an abortion. If this were to occur, Ireland, as a signator to the Convention, would be obligated to change its abortion law to conform with the Court's decision.

This note offers an overview of Irish abortion law after the passage of the Abortion Information Act and Identifies several issues left unresolved by the act that are likely to be the source of controversy in the future. It also examines the merits of a claim that Ireland's strict abortion law violates the European Convention on Human Rights and explores the legal precedent that the European Court of Human Rights is likely to rely on in deciding this question.