Access to Abortion in Cases of Fatal Foetal Abnormality: A New Direction for the European Court of Human Rights?

Abstract

In contrast to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has not yet found that a prohibition of abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality violates the prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We argue that the ECtHR is on the verge of aligning itself with the Committee because, first, recent ECtHR jurisprudence is broadening its interpretation of rights within the abortion context; second, the ECtHR frequently uses international law as an interpretative tool; and, third, moving in the direction of the Committee would not be as controversial as it may have been in the past. More broadly, we view the proliferation of international and regional human rights’ treaty regimes as a positive aspect of international human rights law and demonstrate how a body established to adjudicate on human rights disputes can, with some ingenuity, broaden its approach on sensitive topics by engaging with views of other human rights courts and treaty monitoring bodies.