Questions without answers, or Тhe Abortion сase

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Authors: Alexandra Troitskaya, Tatiana Khramova

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2021-1-13-42

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).


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