Available in Russian
Authors: Alexandra Troitskaya, Tatiana Khramova
Keywords: Constitutional Tribunal of Poland; freedom of reproductive choice; principle of proportionality; right to protection of life; termination of pregnancy; The European Court of Human Rights
In October 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland delivered a landmark judgment where it held the legislative provision allowing the termination of pregnancy on the grounds of severe and irreversible impairment or incurable life-threatening disease of the fetus unconstitutional. This article presents a study of a fundamental legal conflict that is central to this judgment. It examines the decision of the Tribunal not only in the light of Polish legislation and jurisprudence, but also in a broader context of a biomedical discussion about the beginning of life, a formalistic definition of a legal personality, the idea of equal protection of life regardless of the state health, and the need to protect the rights of a woman that may at times come into conflict with the recognized rights of a fetus. In fact, the arguments that we find in the judgment of the body of constitutional review of a particular state trigger a discussion of the problematic issues relevant for any society. The article also includes an overview of the caselaw of the European Court of Human Rights that, on the one hand, highlights the range of problems that should be addressed by the national regulation of the grounds for abortion, and on the other hand, demonstrates the existing gaps in the fundamental bioethical and legal responses to these dilemmas. The authors suggest a scheme to address these issues that requires a reference to the principle of proportionality and a consideration of positive measures reducing the attractiveness of pregnancy termination that should become an alternative to prohibition of abortions. The study concludes with the finding that the Polish approach towards the absolute constitutional conflict has serious flaws of inconsistency and unwillingness to see the complexity of the problem. Therefore, it is plausible to suggest that the dilemma is far from being resolved. The article employs the objects and methods typical for legal research, but also incorporates the findings of relevant medical, biological and demographic studies that appear to be vital for a full-fledged understanding of this interdisciplinary topic.
About the authors: Tatiana Khramova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia; Alexandra Troitskaya – Doctor of Sciences in Law, Associate Professor of the Constitutional and Municipal Law Department, Faculty of Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.
Citation: Khramova T., Troitskaya A. (2021) Nekotorye voprosy ne imeyut otvetov, ili Delo o preryvanii beremennosti [Questions without answers, or Тhe Abortion сase]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.11, no.1, pp.13–42. (In Russian).
Alexy R. (2002) A Theory of Constitutional Rights, J.Rivers (transl.), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Avak’yan S.A. (2014) Konstitutsionnoe pravo Rossii: uchebnyy kurs. T.1 [Constitutional law of Russia: a study course. Vol.1], Moscow: Norma. (In Russian).
Barak A. (2012) Proportionality: Constitutional Rights and Their Limitations, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bearak J. et al. (2020) Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion by Income, Region, and the Legal Status of Abortion: Estimates from a Comprehensive Model for 1990–2019. The Lancet Global Health, vol.8, no.9, pp.e1152–e1161.
Belyaeva E.V. (2011) Otnoshenie obshchestva k statusu embriona cheloveka: problemy i puti resheniya [Society’s attitude to the status of a human embryo: problems and solutions]. In: Sovremenyy rossiyskiy konservatizm: sbornik statey [Contemporary Russian conservatism: a collection of articles], Moscow: NP-Print, pp.131–139. (In Russian).
Bochkov N.P., Puzyrev V.P., Smirnikhina S.A. (2011) Klinicheskaya genetika: uchebnik [Clinical genetics: a study guide], 4th ed., Moscow: GEOTAR-Media. (In Russian).
Chetvernin V.A. (2009) Libertarno-yuridicheskaya interpretatsiya prav cheloveka [Libertarian legal interpretation of human rights]. Available at: https://spb.hse.ru/data/2011/02/03/1208828887/Четвернин%20права%20человека.pdf (accessed: 08.02.2021). (In Russian).
Chirkin V.E. (ed.) (2011) Konstitutsiya v XXI veke: sravnitel’no-pravovoe issledovanie: monografiya [Constitution in the XXI century: a comparative legal study: a monograph], Moscow: Norma. (In Russian).
Christianson A., Howson C.P., Modell B. (2006) March of Dimes. Global Report on Birth Defects. Executive Summary. Available at: https://www.marchofdimes.org/materials/global-report-on-birth-defects-the-hidden-toll-of-dying-and-disabled-children-executive-summary.pdf (accessed: 08.02.2021).
Dolzhikov A. (2020) Uzhe pora umom Rossiyu ponimat’? Trebovanie prigodnosti v konstitutsionnom pravosudii [Is it time to understand Russia rationally? Test of suitability in constitutional adjudication]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.6, pp.51–86. (In Russian).
Gilmartin M., White A. (2011) Interrogating Medical Tourism: Ireland, Abortion, and Mobility Rights. Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol.36, no.2, pp.275–280.
Henaghan M. (2006) Choosing Genes for Future Children: Regulating Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, Dunedin, N.Z.: Human Genome Research Project.
Hussein J., Cottingham J., Nowicka W., Kismodi E. (2018) Abortion in Poland: Politics, Progression and Regression. Reproductive Health Matters, vol.26, no.52, pp.11–14.
Khomenko S. (2020) Zapret na aborty raskolol Pol’shu. Chem zakonchatsya protesty? [The ban on abortion split Poland. How the protests will end]. BBC Russian Service, 22 November. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-55011085 (accessed: 08.02.2021). (In Russian).
Kokotov A.N., Kukushkin M.I. (eds.) (2003) Konstitutsionnoe pravo Rossii: uchebnik [Constitutional law of Russia: a study guide], Moscow: Yurist. (In Russian).
Kovler A.I. (2019) Antropologiya prava: uchebnik dlya vuzov [Anthropology of law: a study guide for universities], Moscow: Norma. (In Russian).
Lobo I., Zhaurova K. (2008) Birth Defects: Causes and Statistics. Available at: https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/birth-defects-causes-and-statistics-863/# (accessed: 08.02.2021).
Lukasheva E.A. (ed.) (2004) Prava cheloveka: uchebnik [Human rights: a study guide], Moscow: Norma. (In Russian).
Maierhofer W. (2017) Abortion Democracy: Sarah Diehl’s Advocacy Documentary Film for Women’s Rights in Poland and South Africa. Sexual Health Issues, vol.1, no.1, pp.1–7.
Modin A.P. (2009) Zhizn’ eto… [Life is…]. Uspekhi sovremennogo estestvoznaniya, no.3, pp.10–13. (In Russian).
Pichlak M. (2020) Abortion, Constitution and the Role of Constitutional Court: Lessons from Poland. Available at: https://blogs.eui.eu/constitutionalism-politics-working-group/abortion-constitution-and-the-role-of-constitutional-court-lessons-from-poland/?fbclid=IwAR3sC8IBas-QDG0lf_YuaU3GleaAh7zhU_8N9lrbWUZGAwMJRyMDIfus1rI (accessed: 08.02.2021).
Romanovskiy G.B. (2003) Gnoseologiya prava na zhizn’ [Epistemology of the right to life], Saint Petersburg: Yuridicheskiy tsentr Press. (In Russian).
Romanovskiy G.B. (2012) Nachalo zhizni cheloveka v ugolovnom prave [The beginning of human life in the criminal law]. Vserossiyskiy kriminologicheskiy zhurnal, no.3, pp.43–49. (In Russian).
Sanger M. (2008) The Pivot of Civilization. Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1689/1689-h/1689-h.htm (accessed: 08.02.2021).
Saxton M. (2013) Disability Rights and Selective Abortion. In: Davis L.J. (ed.) The Disability Studies Reader, London; New York: Routledge, pp.87–99.
Shlink B. (2012). Proportsional’nost’ [Proportionality]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.21, no.2, pp.56–76. (In Russian).
Szelewa D. (2016) Killing “Unborn Children”? The Catholic Church and Abortion Law in Poland since 1989. Social & Legal Studies, vol.25, no.6, pp.741–764.
Taylor D.J., Green N.P.O., Stout G.W. (2021) Biologiya. T.1 [Biological science. Vol.1], Yu.L.Amchenkov et. al. (transl.), Moscow: Laboratoriya znaniy. (In Russian).
Troitskaya A. (2015) Predely prav i absolyutnye prava: za ramkami printsipa proportsional’nosti [Limits of rights and absolute rights: are they beyond proportionality?]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.24, no.2, pp.45–69. (In Russian).
Zakharova M. (2020) Ostat’sya v zhivykh [Staying alive]. Available at: https://clb.msal.ru/kkfrance/?fbclid=IwAR089RhOlLvUShBYd-qUiGvHVO64EG1usDF5BnrepT-84zJuZ9bqJeVMlf4 (accessed: 08.02.2021). (In Russian).
Zalewski B. (2020) Omówienie wyroku Trybunału Konstytucyjnego z dnia 22 października 2020 r. [Discussion of the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal of October 22, 2020]. Available at: https://ordoiuris.pl/ochrona-zycia/omowienie-wyroku-trybunalu-konstytucyjnego-z-dnia-22-pazdziernika-2020-r (accessed: 08.02.2021).
Zaytseva A.M. (2012) Nachalo zhizni cheloveka kak granitsa konstitutsionnoy pravosposobnosti [Beginning of human life as a boundary of the constitutional legal capacity]. Konstitutsionnoe i munitsipal’noe pravo, no.10, pp.17–25. (In Russian).
Zucca L. (2008) Conflicts of Fundamental Rights as Constitutional Dilemmas. In: Brems E. (ed.) Conflicts Between Fundamental Rights, Antwerp; Oxford; Portland, OR: Intersentia, pp.19–37.