An abortion debate is brewing in Ireland over a case some say could be the European equivalent to Roe v. Wade.
Currently, abortion in Ireland is illegal in most cases. But three Irish women who traveled out of the country to get abortions are hoping to overturn the law. The case could impact abortion laws throughout the entire European Union.
"This definitely has the potential to be the Roe v. Wade for Europe," Jordan Lorence, Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel, told CBN News.
The Christian legal group has been given permission to defend Ireland's pro-life law, along with the U.S.-based Family Research Council.
"Those who are seeking the right to abortion are arguing that various provisions...give women a right to abortion. And if that's true, then it would strike down the constitutional provision in Ireland...granting protection for unborn children," he added.
The Tale of Three Women
In 2005, three Irish women took their case against Ireland to the European Court of Human Rights, the EU's highest court.
All three woman said they traveled to Britain for an abortion because Ireland's law restricted the procedure. The women claimed their rights had been violated because their native country forced them to go elsewhere to obtain an abortion. Once they returned home, no information was available to them on post-abortion recovery.
One woman, referred to as "D," said she made the decision to abort after one of her twins died and the other was diagnosed with Edward's syndrome, a chromosome disease that causes physical abnormalities. She claimed that Ireland's law prevented her from finding local post-abortion counseling and learning about future pregnancy risks.
She argues that by not allowing her to abort in her own country, Ireland's laws ultimately prevented her from getting the post-abortion information she needed.
A World-Changing Decision
The European Court agreed to review the case, but asked for more information from Ireland's government and the women before continuing. Now, a hearing is expected as early as next year.
Lorence explained that the European court does not usually see cases like this one.
"In the past this court has deferred on social issues to the local national governments," he said. "This is a bit of an ominous step that they have accepted this case for review and the Alliance Defence Fund wants to make sure that the pro-life position is heard."
Click the player to watch the CBN News report and hear what Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, says the impact could be if Ireland's law is overturned.
The European Court of Human Rights has similar responsibilities to the U.S. Supreme Court. It laws are based on the European Convention on Human Rights, which governs the European Union.
"[The Court] has the final say over the interpretation of this European Convention on Human Rights. So they could say -- like the U.S. Supreme Court interpreting the U.S. Constitution -- there is a right to abortion and impose this on the many European nations that are signatories to this treaty," Lorence explained.
Currently, abortions in south Ireland are completely illegal. In Northern Ireland, abortions are banned unless the pregnant woman has serious medical conditions that would be enhanced by pregnancy, severe learning difficulties, abnormalities or serious complications. There have also been cases where abortion was allowed if rape was involved.
More than 6,000 Irish women travel to Britain every year to get abortions.
Sources: CBN News, Alliance Defense Fund, Life News, BBC News, Irish Family Planning Association