Letter: A Bill of Rights would hold judges to public standards

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your correspondent Peter Mantle (letter, 21 June), who believes that judges are better placed than politicians to take 'important decisions', omits to mention just how detrimental to women the decisions of constitutional courts can be.

German politicians recently referred a liberal abortion law to the constitutional court (seven men, one woman). The court ruled by 6:2 that abortion is illegal and may not be funded by the state. (The woman dissented.) It is restricted to German women of private means, in limited circumstances. This was contrary to the wishes and needs of East German women.

In Ireland, where courts banned information on abortion altogether, the Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that women could be stopped from travelling to England for abortions, unless their lives were at real risk. Lawyers speculated whether women could be detained at ports and airports if they were suspected of going abroad for an abortion, interrogated and subjected to physical examination. The ruling made such totalitarian scenarios a real possibility.

Yours faithfully,

BARBARA HEWSON

Barrister

Gray's Inn

London, WC1

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