The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, December 08, 2003

Europe's judges couldn't impose an abortion ban, could they?

Here's a transatlantic turn-up for the book: on the one side of the pond, Old Europe, Catholic and other reactionaries stifled, muddles along with a patchwork of laws that more or less give abortion on demand up to a point; on the other, the anti-abortionists are screaming blue murder at patients and committing actual murder of doctors.

That stereotype may have to be shaded if Mme Thi Nho Vo gets her way (Guardian today). Vo [1] has a case to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights [2] on December 16, in which she claims that the six month old fetus that she lost due to the negligence of a doctor should be treated as a person to ground a prosecution for unintentional homicide against the doctor [3].

A glance at the decision of the Cour de cassation suggests that there might conceivably be ways that a court looking to decide the case on the narrowest possible grounds might leave abortion laws intact - for a start, the doctor was, it seems, charged under an article of a superseded version of the Code pénal.

What is the ECHR's record on abortion-related issues, I wonder? Or on the narrow v broad grounds question? More research needed to get any feel for the subject.

Meanwhile, in England, a Church of England vicar is attempting to secure a decision of the domestic courts along similar lines. (Untypical in being both a woman - Joanna Jepson - and, it seems, a fanatic.) The court has gone so far as to grant leave to bring the case - there is no paperwork online, that I can see, so far.

In the Jepson case, I'd be fairly certain that, just as with the CND case brought against HMG for its actions in preparation for the Iraq invasion, permission has been given for the purpose of cutting off all possibility of a return to the subject with a detailed, damning opinion.

I'd not bet the farm on it, though.

An eventual visit to the House of Lords - for now, the top UK court - is not out of the question.

  1. According to this Canadian government crib-sheet (PDF), the first name in a Vietnamese name is the family name; but they're referred to as Mr [last name]! Ngo Dinh Diem is Diem - so Vo is Vo.

  2. Number 53924/00 - may be relevant for searching!

  3. Who was convicted, but who had his conviction quashed by the French Cour de cassation on June 30 1999 (Case no. 97-82351).

    There is a Le Monde piece (November 29) that looks at the state of French law on the subject. And this site has useful links to documentation on French child law generally.

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