The European Court of Human Rights and the framing of Reproductive Rights

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This article researches the basis of the concept of reproductive rights in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). After a systematic and transversal presentation the ECtHR’s jurisprudence on reproductive issues, the article argues that the ECtHR does not capture the specificity of reproductive rights, especially the gender perspective and the importance of reproductive health. Faced with arguments of prioritization of certain rights, the ECtHR repeatedly applies the European Convention on Human Rights to domestic rights as if they were neutral and often avoids addressing claims related to discrimination. Besides, while reproductive health is at the core of reproductive rights, the ECtHR’s case law shows self-restraint unless there is a very serious threat on the women’s health. This contrasts with international standards on the right to health. Without considering those essentialist and realistic characteristics of reproductive issues, the ECtHR fails to develop a European concept of reproductive rights. The last parts of the article present the political constraints that plague on the ECtHR, which may explain the minimalist jurisprudence in this area. However, those constraints do not justify all the inconsistencies in the ECtHR’s use of the European consensus and the margin of appreciation doctrine in the field of reproductive rights.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDroits Fondamentaux
Issue number18
Number of pages63
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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