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The New York Times
By CAROL RYAN
Published: February 21, 2012
DUBLIN — Abortion is back on the agenda in Ireland after a European Court of Human Rights ruling last year found the state in violation of its own Constitution on the matter. Ireland’s abortion laws are the strictest in Europe, but the Irish government may be about to address the previously unapproachable: whether to loosen restrictions on ending a pregnancy.
A woman who has never gone public with her name, and thus can be identified only as “Ms. C,” as in court papers, and who suffered from a rare form of cancer, won her case in the human rights court after she couldn’t find an Irish doctor willing to tell her if her life was at risk if she continued her pregnancy.
In response to the ruling, the Irish government has set up an expert group that includes prominent obstetricians, psychiatrists and lawyers to advise it on its options. Members of the group, who all declined to be interviewed for this article, must report back to the government by summer.
The European ruling, coupled with the dwindling power of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, has campaigners for abortion rights hopeful that change may be afoot.
Catholic morality has influenced Irish social policy in the past, but Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s speech attacking the Vatican last summer following another damning report on clerical sex abuse, and the subsequent shuttering of the Irish Embassy to the Holy See, marked a sea change in the relationship between church and state.
Abortion was illegal in all circumstances until the situation was thrown into confusion after the “X” case in 1992, when a 14-year-old girl was prevented from leaving the country to have an abortion after she became pregnant from rape.