The European Court of Human Rights meeting in Strasbourg, France, rejected an immigrant’s appeal requesting that human rights be granted to an unborn child.
The 17-judge panel said it could not rule on a case filed by a French woman in France who was forced to have an abortion after a doctor's mistake.
Thi-Nho Vo, a French national of Vietnamese background, had argued that France had violated the right to life of her unborn child.
Vo, 36, went to a hospital in Lyon on Nov. 21, 1991 for an exam when she was six months pregnant. On the same day, another woman of Vietnamese origin with the same last name, Thanh Van Vo, was due to have a contraceptive device removed.
Vo did not speak French and her gynecologist mistook her for the other. The doctor pierced her amniotic sac, making abortion necessary.
After French courts refused to convict the doctor of involuntary homicide, Vo took the case to the European court.
In a 14-2 decision, the European Court concluded that “it was neither desirable, nor even possible ... to answer in the abstract the question whether the unborn child was a person.”
The court also said that personhood was “a question to be decided at national level ... because the issue had not been decided within the majority of states.”
The decision was welcomed by the London-based Family Planning Association, which filed arguments warning that accepting a right to life for a fetus could make abortions illegal in all 45 countries that recognize the court's jurisdiction.
“The decision will safeguard the laws on abortion which have been widely adopted in the European member states, and will serve to protect women's rights to life, health, self-determination and equality,” said Anne Weyman, Executive director of the pro-abortion organization.