R.R. v. Poland: health rights under Art. 8 ECHR

By Laurens Lavrysen*

As Alexandra correctly noted in her post, R.R. v. Poland is a very interesting judgment. The focus of this post will lie on the general health rights implications of this judgment, which exceed the specific context of reproductive health.

In the case of Tysiąc v. Poland (ECtHR 20 March 2007) the Court stated that “once the legislature decides to allow abortion, it must not structure its legal framework in a way which would limit real possibilities to obtain it.” The Court ruled that Poland had violated Art. 8 ECHR because there was no procedure to establish whether Mrs. Tysiąc could have access to a legal abortion on health grounds. She had a severe sight disability and there were serious reasons to believe that her sight would decrease even more if she were to give birth. As she was denied access to an abortion, she eventually became almost blind.

The case of R.R. is quite comparable: the applicant is a woman who had a right to have an abortion under domestic law (on the ground that her fetus was severely malformed) but she was prevented effective access to this right (because the Polish doctors and hospitals she contacted deliberately refused to do a conclusive genetic test before the legal time limit).

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R.R. v. Poland: of reproductive health, abortion and degrading treatment

The Court has released an important judgment in the area of reproductive health, R.R. v. Poland.  It is also a very interesting judgment, as it raises a complex set of issues connected to different fields of law. Our team had a lively debate about this case yesterday. It became clear that there are various ways of looking at the Court’s reasoning: gender, health rights and freedom of religion are all perspectives that can be brought to bear on this case. With this post I would like to put my first thoughts on paper. The focus will be on the Court’s reasoning under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment).

The facts of R.R. v. Poland make for sad reading. Continue reading