But only pro-abortion groups granted intervenor status

By John-Henry Westen
The InterimThe European Court of Human Rights heard a case Dec. 10 that sought to establish that unborn children have the right to life. A ruling on the case is expected in several weeks. LifeSite has learned that the only two NGOs to which the European Court granted intervenor status were the London-based Family Planning Association and the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights, both pro-abortion activist organizations.

The case was brought by French national, Thi-Nho Vo, who was born in 1967 and lives in Bourg-en-Bresse France.

More than a decade ago, Nov. 27, 1991, while six months pregnant, Vo went to Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Lyons for a medical examination. On the same day, another woman, Thanh Van Vo, was due to have a coil removed at the same hospital. Because of a mixup caused by the fact that both women had the same surname, the doctor who examined the pregnant Vo pierced her amniotic sac and court documents indicate that the action made “a therapeutic abortion necessary.”

Following a criminal complaint lodged by Vo in 1991, Dr. Francois Golfier was charged with causing unintentional injury, a charge subsequently increased to one of unintentional homicide. In 1996, the Lyons Criminal Court acquitted Golfier. On appeal, the Lyons Court of Appeal overturned the criminal court’s judgment, convicted the doctor of unintentional homicide and sentenced him to six-months’ imprisonment (which was suspended) and a fine of 10,000 French francs.

However, two years later, on narrow legal issues, the Court of Cessation reversed the court of appeal’s judgement, holding that the facts of the case did not constitute the offence of involuntary homicide, since the court refused to consider the unborn child a human being entitled to the protection of the criminal law.

On Dec. 20, 1999, Vo applied to the European Court of Human Rights to consider the case of her unborn child, and in May 2003, the Chamber of the Court decided that the case was of such serious significance, it would be heard by the Grand Chamber of 17 judges rather than the normal seven-judge chamber.

Relying on Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Vo’s lawyer, Bruno Le Griel, objected to the authorities’ refusal to classify the unintentional killing of Vo’s unborn child as involuntary homicide. Vo maintains that France has an obligation to pass legislation making such acts a criminal offence. Le Griel told the BBC: “I will be asking the court to recognize reality; that is to say, the human life, a human being, begins at the moment of conception. Who would dare tell my client to her face that what she was carrying, what she lost as a result of a mistake in the hospital, was nothing more than a cluster of cells and was not a human child – her child?”

The British pro-life group Life called the Vo case a “landmark,” because the European court will, if it follows “common sense and the evidence of their eyes,” make a serious dent in the continental drift toward abortion on demand. A spokesman said the case, if decided in Vo’s favour, “will destroy abortionism.”

LifeSite Daily News discovered that on Nov. 25, 2003 the president of the Grand Chamber granted the two pro-abortion groups leave to intervene as third parties in the proceedings. Jim Hughes, vice-president of the International Right to Life Federation, said that “the European Court was negligent in granting intervenor status to two pro-abortion activist organizations without seeking input from the many pro-life NGOs, as a case of such importance warrants.”