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This is what a "right to an abortion" means

A recent EU Court ruling means that Poland, which generally outlaws abortion but in theory permits it legally in cases of rape, is expected by the EU, on pain of recurring awards of damages to complainants, to make abortion not simply legal but actually available in those cases. (To read the EU's side of the story, including a lot of details, go here and scroll to "Chamber Judgment P. and S. v. Poland 30/10/2012.")

The story indicates that Poland's rape exception has been only grudgingly allowed under Polish law and that not only a great many Polish people and the Catholic Church but also the Polish medical establishment are not on-board with it.

A minor girl, age fourteen, became pregnant as a result of rape. The parents obtained a prosecutor's certificate of the rape to allow the abortion to take place, but they were then unable for a time to find a doctor or hospital that would carry out the abortion. One hospital let the general circumstances be known to the public, though without naming the parties. Members of the public were somehow able to use this information and (apparently) some revealing communications made by the family itself to friends to find out the identity of the people involved and to make contact with the girl and her family, attempting to deter them from the abortion. The doctors also informed a priest, who spoke with the girl and attempted to dissuade her. The government removed the girl from her parents' custody for a time, alleging that the mother was attempting to coerce her into the abortion. Whether that was true or not (see below for more on that), the parents' custody was eventually restored, the parents found a hospital willing to kill the unborn child, and the abortion took place.

Now the EU has ordered Poland to pay damages to the family for the difficulty they had obtaining the abortion. There was one part of the situation where it seems to me that the government was at fault, and that was when the girl herself was investigated for illegal sexual contact; one infers that the rapist was also a minor. According to the EU court's summary the girl had suffered bruises, and the prosecutor appears to have been convinced that a genuine assault had taken place. It's unclear exactly why the government carried out that investigation of the girl and whether it was another attempt to find a way to prevent the abortion, but it certainly seems to have been unjustified.

Aside from that, however, I am not at all convinced that any of the government's or medical personnel's actions in attempting to prevent the abortion were wrong. Yes, of course, in our HIPPAA-taught society, for a doctor to tell a priest that a girl is considering abortion so that the priest can try to dissuade her seems the height of unprofessionalism, but it's not clear to me that it's objectively wrong. In fact, I can definitely see a point to it. (Abortion being murder, after all!)

The EU ruling is quite striking. A crucial passage goes like this:

As regards the complaint concerning the lack of unhindered access to abortion, the Court observed that the Polish Government had referred to the right of physicians under Article 9 of the Convention (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) to refuse certain services on grounds of conscience. However, States were obliged to organise their health system in a way that the exercise of that right did not prevent patients from obtaining access to services to which they were entitled by law.

In other words, if it is legal for a woman to have an abortion under certain circumstances in Poland, Poland must see to it that their health system is organized in such a way that women can actually get the abortion. The abortion is not merely to be regarded as legal. It is an entitlement.

The ruling goes on:

Polish law in principle provided for mechanisms to reconcile doctors’ right to conscientious objection with patients’ interests, in particular by obliging the doctor to refer the patient to another physician carrying out the same service. However, it had not been shown that those requirements had been complied with in P.’s case. The medical staff had not considered themselves obliged to carry out the abortion expressly requested by the applicants.

Those nasty doctors. The abortion was requested, and they didn't consider themselves obliged to carry it out! Well, we might let them get away with that if they were sure to go out and find a doctor who would, but they didn't do that either! The idea!

The Court had already held in another case that the provisions of civil law as applied by the Polish courts did not make available a procedural instrument by which a pregnant woman seeking an abortion could fully vindicate her right to respect for her private life. There were no grounds on which to reach a different conclusion in P.’s case.

There must be a regular procedure by which a woman can insure that she can get that baby killed. Anything else is insufficient and constitutes a violation of a woman's "right to privacy."

Oh, about that coercion matter, there is an odd discrepancy. The court's summary of the case states that the Family Court in Poland believed there was reason to think that the girl was being pressured by her mother to have an abortion which she herself did not want. However, the girl subsequently testified (after the abortion took place) that she had not been forced into it by her mother. One would think that would be the end of that question, though one might be a little curious about what made the Family Court in Poland suspect coercion. But the EU Court had these puzzling comments. (S. is the girl's mother.)

Furthermore, it had not been shown that the legal setting in Poland allowed for S.’s concerns to be properly addressed in a way that would respect her views and attitudes and to balance them in a fair and respectful manner against the interests of her pregnant daughter. While legal guardianship could not be considered to automatically confer on the parents of a minor the right to take decisions concerning the minor’s reproductive choices, it could not be overlooked that the interests and life prospects of the mother of a pregnant minor girl were also involved in the decision whether to carry the pregnancy to term or not.

Oh. In other words, maybe the mother was putting heavy pressure on the girl to have the abortion. And the EU Court is subtly telling the government to back off as far as protecting the girl from such coercion. Because, you see, the "interests and life prospects" of the pregnant girl's mother must be taken into account in deciding whether to kill the baby! And this paragraph is plunked down in the midst of a document that otherwise goes on ad nauseum about personal autonomy, a "woman's decision," and all the rest of the pro-choice malarkey! Choice devours itself, indeed. This is a signal to Poland that they really shouldn't take all that "choice" stuff too seriously when the pregnant girl is a minor and doesn't want an abortion but her parents want her to have one.

Probably we'll never know for certain just what the story was between the girl and her mother, but that ominous paragraph shouldn't go without notice.

The EU ruling is a house of horrors. And the reference to a different case shows that this EU Court has had its claws into Poland for a while for its reluctance in the matter of baby-killing.

It's worth noting that both the law and the extra-legal set-up in Poland, while by no means perfect from a pro-life perspective, are obviously vastly superior to the situation in the United States. Even in the "exceptions" circumstances where the unborn child is not actually protected in law, it appears that actually getting an abortion is by no means an easy matter, as this case demonstrates. That is precisely what the Robed Masters of the EU are unhappy about and want to change in a top-down manner by forcing Poland to pay damages again and again until, presumably, the Polish medico-legal establishment is cowed into making abortion more widely available in actual practice. That this will, if successful, eventually result in the coercion of doctors either to perform or to refer for abortions seems beyond doubt. Nothing will satisfy the EU Court but the assurance that there are places to which abortion-minded women can be reliably, swiftly, and eagerly referred in Poland to receive an abortion whenever one is technically legal. To insure that, Poland will probably have to make an active attempt to recruit or pressure doctors to do abortions. And the odd extra paragraph on "balancing" the interests of a pregnant teen with the interests of murder-minded grandparents in not being punished with a baby may well mean the erosion of the ability of a minor to resist a forced abortion.

We Americans have it bad enough with one runaway court. We should be glad that there isn't another, even more liberal, runaway court beyond that one.

Comments (25)

It's too bad them sciencey people can't come up with some kind of "D-N-A" test to figure out if that there unborn baby is human or not. That science - it settles them thar questions once and for all you know! We uneducated bible-folk need to trust scientismists more anyway - at least that's what my smart friends always say. Maybe they can put their egg-heads together and cipher us an answer. I don't know. I don't know me no science stuff.

need to trust scientismists more anyway

Nearly split my side laughing at that one. Well done!

While legal guardianship could not be considered to automatically confer on the parents of a minor the right to take decisions concerning the minor’s reproductive choices, it could not be overlooked that the interests and life prospects of the mother of a pregnant minor girl were also involved in the decision whether to carry the pregnancy to term or not.

Some 3+ years ago, when Pope Benedict XVI issued Caritas in Veritate, I took issue with one rather significant point in his work: that we should be pushing for a world government, one with "teeth" to enforce its requirements. The reason I took issue, even though (as a long-time reader of science fiction) I think a world government is both inevitable and probably acceptable in some versions, is that the ACTUAL available government here and now ready for becoming that world government are absolutely unacceptable. This is an example of just that fact. Under no possible scenario should we promote the idea that OUR CURRENT UN or EU governments are models for a world government, they are opposed to true principles of governance in so many ways that they could not possibly be anything but worse than what we have now. During a time when we have the UN and the EU promoting death programs and the destruction of the family, the basic unit of society, suggesting that we move in the direction of world government is postively imprudent. What we have here is an example of a high court misusing judicial theory, or false judicial theories, to turn the family on its head and distort everything about it. With "friends" like that, the family itself will not long endure as a social reality. Coming soon to an EU nation: the government simply brushing off parenthood as a complete irrelevancy in deciding child issues. "Legal guardianship" indeed: this is a pretense for stuffing the rights and duties of parenthood (a very deep and broad natural thing) into a narrow and limited fabrication of the law. (And then shooting such entity in the heart.)

Good comment about taking away the rights of parents to have a say in underage girls sexual matters.
The law is the US,as I know it,is that the parents have no right to know about the underage girls doctor/patient relationship at all,including birth control,abortion,and fertility drugs.
This has opened up a market for tweens to be exploited by doctors using fertility drugs to 'pump up' teen and tween ovaries to harvest eggs for the lesbian/gay anti-family demographic.
States such as Massachusetts pay the entire cost of pregnancy for under income would be mothers,including tens of thousands of dollars for eggs and thousands or dollars for sperm,+ the medical costs for the process.
This amounts to millions of taxpayer dollars to fund children (sometimes including surrogate mother fees)
for unmarried,overage,and lesbian would be mothers.

Meanwhile men have no State funded options and most often have to travel to India and pay tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
All of this comes from the agenda set by the 8 Presidential Councils for Women,and other pro-women/lesbian government entities and NGO's.

The author is correct in that "entitlements' often run into mission creep into limitless funds for endless entitlements.

It's too bad them sciencey people can't come up with some kind of "D-N-A" test to figure out if that there unborn baby is human or not.

I mentioned this once before, but I once got into a long argument with a guy who was totally convinced I was a total moron for believing fetuses and zygotes were human persons. While he agreed that they were humans in species he seemed to believe that Ayn Rand's principle of identity proved without a shadow of a doubt that they were not persons, and since I didn't understand this I was so ignorant that I made pro-lifers look bad.

He went as far as saying I was incapable of arguing against him because I never took a Logic class in college and he did. No, I didn't take a Logic class, but I took a college level Apologetics course from a man currently in the middle of going for his Master's degree in Bioethics and who already had three other Masters degrees. Abortion was one of the main subjects of the class. so go figure.

To this day I have absolutely no clue what his point was. My whole argument was that humans are persons, whatever stage of development and he kept saying I was wrong because of the principle of identity-which was exactly what was at issue in the first place.

In any case, this reminds of something I saw where people who wanted to commit suicide just went to (I believe? I'm possibly misremembering) the Netherlands and got injected, because people had a "right to die as they choose." Like here, people HAVE to have a right to kill as they choose...but not a right not to kill at all. It's a sickening double standard-you HAVE to be able to kill your baby if you want to, but I'm not allowed to refuse to kill your baby. What?

Poland should leave the EU.

Poland should certainly leave the EU. I wish they would.

The idea that we should have a world government with "real teeth" was insane. As a Protestant, I can say, "That's insane" without thinking twice about the fact that it was in an encyclical. By the way, I believe George Weigel wrote an NRO piece in which he pointed out that that passage was probably written by some peace-n-justice ministry in the Vatican and then pasted into the encyclical. Weigel seemed to think that made matters _better_. I myself think it doesn't make matters much better, since if you are a major religious leader and you have enough sense to know that such a suggestion is crazy, you shouldn't be signing a document that has had it pasted in.

I'm not at all convinced that a one-world government would be acceptable under any circumstances short of the eschaton and direct rule by Jesus Christ himself! The Kingdom of Frank the Just (a fiction to which I've occasionally alluded in comments) is the stuff of fiction, not of reality. Of fiction in which the Fall of man has fewer effects both on wisdom and on morals than it has in the real world.

In any event, anyone who draws the moral from this story that centralization and meta-national laws are a *bad idea* will be in agreement with me. That is indeed one of the morals of the story.

I want to add something concerning parental rights and a centralized EU-style government.

Tony is certainly right that one of the greatest threats of such centralization is to the _proper_ exercise of parental rights. The Robed Masters of the world would be, in practice, like super-sized CPS workers, making sure that children have a "right" to sexually explicit material, to sexual activity, to have an abortion if they wish, and so on and so forth. Home schooling would hardly be approved of. Germany is a good example here of what we're looking at.

The irony in this particular ruling is that the court's comment on parental rights appears to _uphold_ the importance of parental opinion, but only in the direction of requiring the girl to _have_ the abortion. (I think we needn't tax our brains to guess what the court would have said if the girl had wanted an abortion and the parents had been attempting to stop it.)

What I see as a common thread here is that the Manipulators want parents and children both to be reduced to the level of child-citizens with the Manipulators as Super-Parent. As Super-Parent, the Masters get to put in place their priorities as they adjudicate the upbringing of all the children and any disagreement that might arise. In this case, the priorities cashed out to, "Now, Sally, maybe you don't want to have the abortion, but Susie's life will be interrupted if you don't, because Susie is the other child-citizen whom we are requiring to take care of you for the next few years. So her interests have to be considered as well. So you'll have to have the abortion."

Poland should certainly leave the EU. I wish they would.
The European Court of Human Rights is, though a European court, not a European Union (=EU) court. Among its 47 member states are Russia, Turkey and even Switzerland. Only the dictatorship Belarus and the Vatican are not members. See e.g. first paragraph of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Court_of_Human_Rights

So much about the reliability of Wesley J. Smith and the National Review.

The idea that we should have a world government with "real teeth" was insane. As a Protestant, I can say, "That's insane" without thinking twice about the fact that it was in an encyclical.

Maybe Benedict is just tired of waiting and wants to immanentize the eschaton by building the Anti-Christ's global state ahead of schedule...

That's an interesting minor correction, Grobi, but it will only change my statement to the statement that Poland should leave the Council of Europe, if being a member state subjects it to this sort of disgusting tyranny.

As so often happens with leftists, you strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. _Obviously_, Wesley J. Smith is now an unreliable source because he used the term "EU" rather than the term "European Council." Wow, I'm so shattered. You seem more worried about this error than you are about the court's implication that it would have been okay to force the girl to get an abortion in order not to inconvenience her mother. Not to mention the assault on doctors' consciences in the ruling. Get a sense of perspective, please.

I was acually rather sympathetic with your critique of the court's ruling. Since no doctor should be forced to make an abortion, it is hard to see how there can be an entitlement to it, or an obligation for the government to install abortion opportunities.
But your point about the "cenralistic EU style government" simply cannot be supported by the indeed questionable ruling. The European Court of Human Rights is very much a teethless tiger with no executive power. It can only order the member states to pay compensations.
And the fact that countries like Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco or Norway who usually are very eager to protect their neutrality/sovereignty have signed the European Convention on Human Rights should tell you something as well.
Therefore mistaking the Court for an EU institution is not a "gnat", but a serious distortion.
And to call the regimen of the European court a "disgusting tyranny" is just laughable. Think about it again: only Belarus hasn't signed!

Grobi, is the Polish government going to pay the compensation, or isn't it?

Look, we all know how these "teethless tiger" things usually work. In America, the court supposedly has "no force but only judgement," yet it's an amazing thing: The states always crumble when a federal court declares their laws unconstitutional! One can say (perhaps with some truth) that both of these things are part of a gigantic game of bluff, but if so, the bluff appears to be effective. I would surmise that the member states of the Council of Europe believe that in the name of the "rule of law" or "human rights" or some such thing they have to go along with such rulings.

Naturally, I would be thrilled if Poland told the Court of Human Rights to go pound sand. If it does so and nothing happens and everyone just goes their merry way (except for S., who doesn't get her pound of flesh), I will to some degree concede your "teethless tiger" designation (though evidently Poland did consider itself bound to spend the money to defend itself before the court). Until then, not so much.

And the fact that countries like Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco or Norway who usually are very eager to protect their neutrality/sovereignty have signed the European Convention on Human Rights should tell you something as well.

If they are going to consider themselves bound to structure their internal laws and practices in line with these kinds of rulings and to pay damages when they don't, what it will tell me is simply that they aren't as eager to protect their sovereignty as previously thought! What else would one say?


Thank you for this very interesting and pertinent analysis.
Unfortunately, I believe that Grobi is partly right. The ECHR is a completely ignorable and mostly ignored institution. (I live in France, a country theoretically under its jurisdiction). Its decisions regularly contradict EU and national legislation, and are more often than not completely ignored: in fact, it has been known to make two completely contradictory decisions within a few years' time. It actually would not be surprising that Poland pay nothing at all.

That said, it most definitely is a "disgusting tyranny", in the sense that its decisions are often blatantly irrational (see fifth paragraph "but it's not the Danes"...), and without any regard for national traditions or laws.

Thanks for keeping up the great work and fascinating commentary!

Jane, thanks for the further information. I have to admit that I find all of this a little difficult to get a handle on. For example, the article you cited with the paragraph beginning, "But it's not the Danes" obviously assumes that the ECHR rulings _do_ have force and _may very well_ affect British law as applied. Moreover, there was apparently some reason why the parents in the Polish ruling bothered to go to the ECHR. Even if their expenses were sponsored pro bono by some pro-abortion group, such a group must have thought it worth their while to get the ruling and the precedent. And, as you know, the countries in the Council of Europe who are signatories to the relevant "convention" are allegedly bound to abide by the court's rulings.

The only way I can make all this even sorta-kinda consistent with the, "Move along folks, nothing to see here, this has no force" claim that Grobi is making is by conjecturing that it's a crap shoot, a roll of the dice, whether a given ruling will be followed, whether Poland will consider itself bound to pay the damages or to change its policies, whether the ruling on homosexual "marriage" cited in your third link will be applied in Britain, and so forth.

Depending on the probabilities that the country will bow to the alleged "rule of international law" represented by the ECHR rulings, or that some other country would regard those rulings as precedent-making and take them into account in its own practice, various groups might consider the rulings to be useful or to be bad. And various people might consider it worth their while to appeal to the court, countries consider it worth their while to answer the claims rather than defaulting on the case and ignoring whatever ruling comes out of it, and so forth.

If this is right, then it is misleading to imply that the ECHR is merely irrelevant and ignored. It seems that if that were the case, even the liberals, leftists, pro-aborts, or whoever wouldn't bother taking cases there. Poland would have simply laughed rather than sending a brief to defend its actions in the case in the main post. The court would become just a bunch of people sitting around talking to themselves, and no one would report their rulings as helpful or ominous or possibly relevant to countries' laws any more than they report, say, my blog posts as having that same importance!

Now, I can imagine that the EU itself has more "sticks" with which to beat countries into compliance with its requirements. Hence, the distinction between the ECHR and the EU becomes one at least worth making.

However, it doesn't follow from that that it doesn't much matter what the ECHR says and that a state has no particular motivation not to agree to be subject to its rulings.

That's absolutely right, Lydia. It is a well-known progression that has been used repeatedly in the leftist arsenal.

(1) You get some weirdo nutcase suggest something outrageously wrong and evil. We are all advised that "yes, of course he is a nutcase, nobody gives any credit to this, but leave him alone and his nonsense will come to nothing."

(2) Then you get some nutcase liberal ivory-tower long-hair to write an article that incorporates said screwball idea, just "toying with the logical implications", not, you know, actually advocating this as a policy (wink), just "exploring it" because hey, the idea has been talked about by others.

(3) Then you get other articles and other ivory tower types talking up the idea, springboarding off of the first article as if it were provided a clear, positive basis for approval, eliciting additional peripheral points in favor of it without ever mentioning that in the original article the idea was never actually supported in the first place.

(4) Instigate law suits to pursue the idea. Ignore the fact that the idea is a nutcase idea that no sane person can even state without laughing. Don't worry about the initial law-suits falling flat on their faces. Eventually, some judge will think that (3) above means the idea is coherent. (It only takes one). When one judge puts up a favorable comment on it (even in a minority dissent), other courts and other legal professionals will treat the idea as if seriously considered, seriously in play as a viable alternative.

(5) Construct a "study" to investigate the benefits of the idea. Throw out the studies that don't support it (remove funding, squelch the reports as being "biased" or "methodologically flawed"). Tout the studies that support it regardless of how biased or flawed.

(6) Then we get polls to ask people how they perceive the idea.

Lather, Rinse and Repeat (3), (4), (5) and (6) for 10 years. By that time, the idea will have at least 30% better polling rates than 10 years earlier, without any basis for it other than 10 years of talking about the idea as under the perspective that the "elites" take it seriously, so it must have something OK with it.

(7) Push for laws in favor of the idea. Point to the polls that clearly have so many people in favor of it. Point to the studies and the "scholarly" articles. Ignore the fact that the people saying yes in the polls are saying that only because they have heard the idea being mentioned in the media by elites under a favorable perspective for 10 years, without ever actually trying to understand the reasons for or against the idea on their own merits, (just like the elites never actually argued the merits of the case in concrete terms, they sprung directly into considering peripheral positives after step (2).

This is an oft-used pattern. It is entirely obvious that a court case like one in the ECHR plays into this pattern regardless of whether any government anywhere in the world actually abides by its decisions. Just like the fact that it there is a moral certainty that some US court somewhere will cite European court judgments against capital punishment to conclude that it is "cruel and unusual", even though properly speaking "cruel and unusual" have specific legal meanings in the US that don't really pertain to the European attitudes and legal approach to it, and even though European law is not a valid basis for US court decisions. It's all a game they play.


Ayn Rand's principle of identity proved without a shadow of a doubt that they were not persons

This is where I part company with many Libertarians. There seems to be a strong movement within libertarianism that argues for a "right" to abortion. I think the appeal to a "principle of identity" is an attempt to justify a position that modern science has proven incoherent.


the family, the basic unit of society,

I think this is correct. The family is the most basic unit of a functioning society. Parents are the only entity outside of civil government that are morally justified in using coercive force over other individuals (their minor children). Each family, then, is a sovereign mini-government unto itself and thus should not be violated - except on the rarest of occasions (obvious abuse). The current forms of government in the US and EU usurp the sovereignty of the family and seek to destroy it. Excellent insight Tony!

I think the appeal to a "principle of identity" is an attempt to justify a position that modern science has proven incoherent.

That was the impression I got, but when I pointed that out he just said I was an idiot. Go figure.

Invoking the principle of identity as a way to end the argument is just another way of saying "Fetuses aren't persons because they don't look like grown humans." Or at least, it looked an awful lot like that.

What does Benedict proposed world government look like?

I seem to recall an alternative to the one we already have, but pretend does not exist because it disturbs our sleep.

Not long ago at a family gathering, my brother-in-law (who is a liberal college professor) reached a tipping point with the booze and marijuana, and launched on me. He hit several issues machine-gun style, including that our Christianity was just a myth. Said it was fine for one man to marry another. Nearby was a the 15-year old, unwed niece with her infant, both of whom the host family had taken in for care, listening.

The professor continued to fire, deriding us for trying to take away the rights of mothers to abortion. Finally able to ger a word in, I blurted out (tongue firmly in cheek): "I don't want to take those rights away; in fact, I think we should expand them!"

The attempt to stun and silence worked. He could only stammer, "What do you mean?" I replied, "Why should women be the only ones with the right to murder? I think we should all have the right!"

It was the end of a really good picnic, and the shredding of yet another relationship in the culture war.

Don't feel bad about it, John. It sounds like he was using that "relationship" only for the purposes of drug-enhanced, ideologically impoverished bullying. God protect his students if that's his idea of an appropriate way to behave.


Unfortunately, I am not a European lawyer, so I won't be able to reply fully to your objections.

My understanding is that the ECHR has no endorcement possibilities per se, and in fact, progressives understand that quite well. The case of the two lesbians who sued France for not letting them "marry", for example, was not publicized at all in France, whether prior to or after judgement-- I only heard of it through the Catholic and conservative sources. Frankly, considering the *open* hostility to any sort of minimal religious freedom for non-Muslims proudly displayed by all major newspapers other than Le Figaro, I think that if any one had believed that this ruling had any sort of binding power, it would have shown.

Countries like Russia routinely flout its judgements without any consequences; clearly, Italy did not change its policy on crucifixes in classrooms in the case I linked to earlier.

However, it is also the case that some more "progressive" countries have inscribed in their laws or constitutions that the ECHR has the final word on human rights violations in their countries; hence, they have bound themselves to self-enforce judgements. I doubt that this is the case with Poland, but may be mistaken. Furthermore, I do not think that countries can bind themselves to rulings that violate their own laws. In this case differences between the common-law/judicial precedent culture of the UK and US with the civil law culture of mainland Europe, where legal decisions are only binding insofar as they respect actual law, certainly show.

After having thought it over, I think I must add that I strongoy agree with you on this: even if there are no immediate material consequences, yes, these rulings are often considered moral victories for one group or the other (hence, for example, the discussion of the "gay marriage" case almost exclusively in homosexualist or very conservative circles), and hence they certainly serve a purpose for perverted advocacy groups who can use them for propaganda purposes later on.

Also, when the court rules in favor of having individuals pay damages, states can usually enforce that.

Furthermore, I do not think that countries can bind themselves to rulings that violate their own laws.

If so, that's a very interesting difference between the Anglo and the European tradition, because of course the whole point of getting a court to rule on something in the U.S. is often for the purpose of striking down an existing law.

In any event, the claim of the ruling in this case is that somehow by not proactively providing the abortion and making sure there was someone available more readily to whom to refer the family, Poland was not abiding by its own laws. This is questionable, though I suppose one might argue that the doctors who did not refer more readily when there was an in-country abortionist available in Gdansk (or looking harder sooner to find the hospital in Gdansk) were engaging in civil disobedience without consequences. (More power to them, if so, of course.) It may be that the ECHR worded its ruling in the way that it did for precisely that reason--by telling Poland that actual access was an implication of current Polish law, the court intended to bring about actual change in Polish practice.

This is questionable, though I suppose one might argue that the doctors who did not refer more readily when there was an in-country abortionist available in Gdansk (or looking harder sooner to find the hospital in Gdansk) were engaging in civil disobedience without consequences.

It doesn't seem very likely to me that conscience clause laws in Poland don't give a physician room for not referring a patient for an abortion - referring is cooperation with evil, and the doctor knows this. The same country that makes abortion generally illegal isn't likely to be unaware of this moral aspect.

Polish law in principle provided for mechanisms to reconcile doctors’ right to conscientious objection with patients’ interests, in particular by obliging the doctor to refer the patient to another physician carrying out the same service.

Yeah, right. That's the ECHR's way of putting it. Well, what the court claims is one thing, but leave me room to doubt the court's theory about what Polish law actually states. It took me a bit of research to find something that looks like the actual rule, and it DOES NOT say that the doctor has to refer:

Article 35 of the 5 December 1996 Act of the Medical and Dentist Profession provides: The doctor may refrain from implementing health care benefits that are incompatible with his conscience, subject to Article 30 of the obligation to indicate that there is real opportunity to obtain the benefits with another doctor or in another plant health care and justified and should be noted that fact in medical records. The doctor when exercising their profession on the basis of work or in the service is also an obligation for prior notification in writing superior

"Indicating that there is a real opportunity to obtain the benefit with another doctor" is NOT THE SAME THING as referring. And, if the law in Article 30 did try to create an obligation to refer for abortions, it is very likely that that application of the law would be found to be against the Polish Constitution and several EU documents including its basic charter, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, etc.

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