Home > Ireland for Europe > The facts: Abortion and the EU

The facts: Abortion and the EU

First published on the Ireland for Europe blog

Despite the clear guarantees which we have secured on successive occasions, Cóir have persisted with the pernicious deception that Ireland’s position on abortion is being threatened.

It is helpful then to outline precisely what protections exist in Irish Constitutional law on abortion, and what European Union provisions protect this measure.

Article 40.3.3°

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

Because of concerns on abortion, we secured a Protocol as part of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 ensuring that this provision would not be affected.

Protocol 17 of the Maastricht Treaty

Nothing in the Treaty on European Union, or in the Treaties establishing the European Communities, or in the Treaties or Acts modifying or supplementing those Treaties, shall affect the application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland.

After the concerns raised during last year’s campaign on ethical issues, the Government secured an agreement with the 26 other EU countries which would come into law on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and would have the force of law of any international treaty, like the Belfast Agreement.

European Council Guarantee 2009

Nothing in the Treaty of Lisbon attributing legal status to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, or in the provisions of that Treaty in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice affects in any way the scope and applicability of the protection of the right to life in Article 40.3.1, 40.3.2 and 40.3.3, the protection of the family in Article 41 and the protection of the rights in respect of education in Articles 42 and 44.2.4 and 44.2.5 provided by the Constitution of Ireland

The European Union cannot not make laws in areas not specified by the Treaties, and there is no mention of abortion anywhere in any of them. Furthermore, the European Court of Justice has previously made explicitly clear in its rulings that the EU has no competence to decide a country’s laws on the matter of abortion.

These guarantees in our own Constitution, in EU Treaty law and from rulings of the ECJ make clear that this claim has absolutely no basis whatsoever.

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