Late Abortion and the European Convention for Human Rights
te Braake, Trees A.M.
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 1999; 18(4): 607-612
National abortion laws usually do not allow abortion when a foetus is independently viable, i.e. from a gestational age of about 24 weeks. Fetal anomalies, which may be a reason to seek abortion, are sometimes detected only in an advanced stage of pregnancy. National legislatures who want to allow 'late' abortion need to account for the protection the fetus may derive from the European Convention for the protection of human rights. As yet it remains unclear to what extent the fetus can in fact derive protection from the Convention, although several national abortion laws have been tested against it by the European Commission. The significance of the reports of the Commission on the question whether national legislation allowing abortion of a viable fetus is in conflict with the Convention, is explored. It is concluded that there is no European legal standard in terms of duration of pregnancy to which national legislatures are committed.
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