Coat Hangers, Court Cases, And RU-486: Abortion Rights Around The World

Yesterday, the city of Berkeley, California sent wire hangers to some members of Congress who voted for the Stupak Amendment — and across the Atlantic, courts prepare to decide whether an Irish abortion ban violates women's human rights.

The Berkeley City Council approved the motion on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the city sent 20 wire coat hangers to Representatives who had previously supported reproductive rights but voted for Stupak. And while the specter of that amendment, in Latoya's words, "loom[s] like some super villain resurrected for multiple franchises," abortion rights remain a contentious issue worldwide. At the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, three Irish women are challenging their home country's abortion ban. One woman wanted an abortion because of her risk of ectopic pregnancy; the second became pregnant during chemotherapy; the third felt her pregnancy would hamper her efforts to regain custody of her children. Ireland's abortion ban includes an exception when the mother's life is at risk, but the three women in the case feel the ban violated their right to "health and well-being" under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Unsurprisingly, the Irish government disagrees. Irish Attorney General Paul Gallagher says the women's case is based on "legal and factual propositions which, when analysed, cannot be supported." He adds that because the case has not been tried in Irish courts first, "many of these facts are of an assumed nature [...] if these issues are to come before this court, it should be on the basis of established facts." It's not immediately clear what facts Gallagher disputes, and the Irish government's true objection to the women's case seems more about its implications than its specifics. Gallagher called the case an effort to bring Ireland in line with countries that have more liberal abortion laws — and, to be fair, this may be true. But any woman's right to "health and well-being" includes the right to make her own decisions about reproduction, and if the Court of Human Rights rules in the women's favor (a verdict is expected in six to eight months), it will be a step in the right direction for human rights everywhere.

Another step: the abortion pill RU486 was officially approved for sale yesterday in Italy, over protests from the Catholic Church and the government of Silvio Berlusconi. The Italian pharmaceutical authority's decision sends a message that the Church shouldn't control women's reproductive choices. It's a message that the government of Ireland — and all those who supported Stupak and its clones — would do well to hear.

Ireland's Abortion Law Challenged In European Court [BBC]
'Moral Values' Of Abortion Law Defended [Irish Times]
Abortion Pill Cleared For Sale In Italy: Official Journal [Breitbart]
Berkeley Sends Wire Hangers To Politicians [San Francisco Chronicle]
Women Challenge Irish Abortion Ban In Court [Guardian]