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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Thursday, July 08, 2004

European judges duck start of life question

On December 8 2003, I mentioned that the European Court of Human Rights [1] were hearing arguments in the case of Vo v France, where a woman who was obliged to undergo an abortion of a fetus damaged by medical negligence was claiming that the right to life of the fetus under Article 2 of the ECHR had been violated.

The ruling is now in [2]; the opinions are long - in the common law style, a million miles from the laconic French method, indecipherable without the benefit of the notes one finds in Dalloz and like publications - and fully recite the facts and prior litigation in the French courts.

In a sort of anti-Dred Scott, the Court rules that, even if the fetus were entitled to the protection of Article 2 - as being a human being - the French government would have satisfied its obligations towards it.

The Court therefore sidestepped the need to rule on the big issue: like the Supremes' finding that Jose Padilla had named the wrong respondent in his habeas corpus petition!

The Court justifies its self-denying ordinance by the fact that different countries disagree on the question whether, and, if so, from what point and for which purposes, a fetus is a person in law: it's a self-preservation society, of course. But at least it did no harm [3].

  1. Nothing to do with the EU, or its European Court of Justice (ECJ). Established by the European Convention on Human Rights - lunatic confusion of acronyms: why not say Treaty? - as part of the Council of Europe set-up.

  2. You really need the English and French versions. (Bastard temporary URL alert! Search pages here and here.) News pieces from BBC and Le Figaro.

  3. A useful piece entitled "First, Do No Harm" Is Not in the Hippocratic Oath.

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