On October 4, the European Community Court of Justice handed down its verdict in the Abortion Information Case.
The verdict upholds the right of the Irish State to outlaw the supplying of information about abortion services by officers of the students’ Union of Dublin’s Universities.
Unfortunately, the court confined its ruling to the circumstances of the particular case referred to it for a ruling by the Dublin High Court last year.
As reported earlier, the case arose from an action taken by the S.P.U.C. (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) against 14 students who were defying the law and the Irish Constitution by advertising the services of British abortion ‘clinics’.
The case was judged according to European Community (EC) law, particularly the treaty under which the Community is established. This provides for the free movement of trade and unrestricted availability of services within the Community.
Abortion as a ‘service’
To many people in the pro-life movement, it appears that S.P.U.C. made a tactical error in presenting its case.
The group argued that the students were acting in breach of the law and Constitution of Ireland, a member state. S.P.U.C. also argued that abortion “cannot be regarded as a ‘service’ because it is immoral and involves the destruction of the life of a human being.”
The court rejected this argument. It found that abortion does constitute a ‘service’ within the meaning of the EC treaty.
The ruling leaves open the possibility that providers of abortion may now claim that they have a right to advertise their service themselves. They might point to the Court’s ruling which states that the “link between the ‘students’ associations and the medical terminations of pregnancies carried out in clinics in another member state was too tenuous.”
The court compared the Irish case with an earlier case in which it had ruled that a Belgian supermarket had a right to advertise its services in Luxembourg.
In the Irish case, the Court ruled the information given was not distributed by “an economic operator in another member state” but was “a manifestation of freedom to impart and receive information which is independent of economic activity…”
In upholding the right of Ireland to prohibit the Students’ Union from distributing information, the Court has only postponed the final decision. Few persons on both sides of the issue believe this is the end of the matter.
The students have stated their intention to ignore the ruling. Their advocates and advisors are suggesting that they should volunteer their services as official agents of the abortion providers. However, most Irish authorities on EC law believe that the Irish constitution will be upheld and that Irish law will prevail.