law

On “the equal right to life of the mother”

 

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Above, Article 40.3.3° of Bunreacht na hÉireann,
as inserted in 1983 by the 8th amendment to the Constitution.

 

Today, a case comes before the High Court of Ireland to decide whether a 16-week pregnant woman who has died must remain on artificial life support interventions to vindicate the Constitutional right of the foetus.

In this case, “the right to life of the unborn” applies to a foetus that is not viable outside of the womb; while “the equal right to life of the mother” applies to a deceased woman.

Is it possible here to respect, defend and vindicate (“as far as practicable”) the right to life of a foetus, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, where the mother has already died?

What is being equated in these circumstances?

What is the right to life of the deceased?

How does a deceased person fit into the equation presented by Article 40.3.3°?

This is a dreadful and horrific case. Whether any of these questions will arise in court today remains to be seen.