Reprohealth Info & Abortion: Standards developed by the European Court of Human Rights

Congratulations and thanks to Johanna Westeson of the Center for Reproductive Rights, for her recently published article, now online here.

Reproductive Health Information and Abortion Services:

Standards Developed by the European Court of Human Rights

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics 122.2 (August 2013): 173-176


In three recent judgments, the European Court of Human Rights addressed the issue of access to abortion and related reproductive health services. In two of the judgments, the Court declared that the state violated women’s rights by obstructing access to legal health services, including abortion. In so doing, it referred to the state’s failure to implement domestic norms on prenatal testing and conscientious objection, and recognized the relevance of international medical guidelines. This illustrates that domestic and international medical standards can serve as critical guidance to human rights courts. In the third case, the Court showed its unwillingness to declare access to abortion a human right per se, which is troubling from the perspective of women’s right to health and dignity. The present article outlines the relevance of these cases for the reproductive health profession and argues that medical professional societies can influence human rights courts by developing and enforcing medical standards, not only for the benefit of abortion rights domestically but also for the advancement of women’s human rights worldwide.

Keywords: abortion rights, conscientious objection law, denial of human rights, European Court of Human Rights, human rights law, Irish abortion law, Polish abortion law

A full PDF text of this article is online here.

Related resources on ECtHR cases discussed in this article

Access to information:  R.R. v. Poland –  Decision online.

Access to reproductive health services for adolescents: P and S v. Poland –  Details and links

Health and/or life exceptions to abortion bans: A, B, and C v. Ireland  Decision online.

More articles on Ethical and Legal Issues in Reproductive and Sexual Health are online here.

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