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Ireland - Government commits to meet human rights obligations on abortion under UN pressure

[Irish Family Planning Association, Dublin, 06 October 2011] In a momentous day for women in Ireland, UN member states took a stand for Irish women’s reproductive rights today (06.10.11) at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva during an examination of Ireland’s domestic human rights record.

Member states refused to accept vague promises from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on the abortion issue and demanded concrete legislative action. They also called for firm timelines on the implementation of the A, B & C v Ireland case at the European Court of Human Rights. Other countries made strong recommendations to Ireland to liberalise its restrictive abortion laws.

In response to questions and recommendations at the hearing, the Minister for Justice made a commitment to deal with the abortion issue in an “adequate and comprehensive” way and to “meet our obligations under the convention of human rights”.

Irish Family Planning Association Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “Today was a momentous day for women in Ireland. It is heartening to see so many of our UN partners taking a stand for women’s reproductive rights at such an important human rights forum.

“The Minister must now not only outline the terms of references and timeline of the proposed expert group which the Government has promised in response to the A, B & C v Ireland judgment, he must also make a firm commitment to provide legislation for adequate abortion services and to give clarity to women and their doctors.”

At the hearing today, France and Germany pressed the Government for further information on the implementation of the A, B & C judgment. The UK called on Ireland to legislate for the A, B & C judgment and the Netherlands recommended the introduction of a coherent legal framework and the provision of adequate services.
Four countries (Slovenia, Norway, Denmark, Spain) called on Ireland to go beyond the A, B & C judgment and either decriminalise abortion or allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest and when a woman’s health and wellbeing are at risk.

Abortion in Ireland

Abortion is against the law in Ireland unless the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. Since 1980, some 150,000 women have travel abroad to access safe abortion services. This highlights the hypocrisy of Ireland’s abortion regulations which are among the most restrictive in the world.

Ireland’s restrictive laws on abortion are totally out of step with those of its European neighbours. Forty four out of 47 European countries provide for abortion to protect women’s health. The overwhelming consensus throughout Europe allows for some access to legal abortion to protect a woman’s health and well-being, applying a more effective, less punitive approach than that which is in force in Ireland.

About A, B & C v Ireland

In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its verdict in the case of A, B & C v Ireland ? a landmark challenge to Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. The Court unanimously found that Ireland’s failure to give effect to the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland when a woman’s life is at risk violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The decision reaffirmed the Supreme Court X Case judgment of 1992 and sent a very strong message to the State that it can no longer ignore the imperative to legislate for the provision of life-saving abortion services.

The case was taken by three women, supported by the IFPA, who travelled abroad for abortion services. They argued that the criminalisation of abortion services in Ireland jeopardised their health and wellbeing, in violation of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was heard before the Court’s Grand Chamber of 17 judges, which is reserved to hear cases that raise serious questions affecting the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Read the IFPA’s submission to the UPR

CONTACT: Fiona Tyrrell, Irish Family Planning Association Communications Officer, 00 353 1 607 4456 or 00353 86 7952167

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