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Next week the European Court of Human Rights will begin hearing a case that will decide whether Ireland’s ban on abortion violates a woman’s human rights.

The case is taken by three Irish women who claim their health was put in danger by being forced to travel abroad in order to obtain an abortion, thus violating their human rights.

The European Court of 17 judges will determine whether or not Ireland’s current laws on abortion, which outlaw abortion except in cases of substantial risk to the mother’s life, violate the European Convention on Human Rights. The article in question states that everyone has the “right to respect for private and family life” without interference from the government.

When Ireland became a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, the convention was incorporated into Irish law and the country became subject to the judgments of the Court, which rules on human rights issues in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

According to John Smeaton, head of the British pro-life group SPUC Pro-Life, the case essentially puts the Irish constitution on trial as whatever verdict is reached will be legally binding on the country.

The case could be the European equivalent of Roe v. Wade. “If it is successful, countries throughout Europe and the rest of the world will be affected,” Smeaton said. “The effect could be similar to the Roe v Wade judgment in America, which struck down all restrictive laws on abortion in the United States by recognizing a right to abortion.”

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