Thursday, January 28, 2010

Irish Examiner: Rights body calls for legalised abortion

By Catherine Shanahan

Thursday, January 28, 2010

ONE of the world’s leading human rights organisations has called on the Government to decriminalise abortion.

In a report by Human Rights Watch, the Government is accused of violating a long list of human rights in its treatment of abortion and related issues including "health, information, privacy, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, life, equal protection under the law, and nondiscrimination".

Entitled A State of Isolation: Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland, the report says the actions of the Government in the face of the "need for abortion" have been "erratic and divisive" and it calls for a change to its restrictive abortion laws to meet its obligations under international law.

Last week, the results of an Irish Examiner/Red C poll found two-thirds of 18- 34-year-olds believe abortion should be legalised in Ireland.

The document urges the Government to take "immediate steps toward decriminalising all abortion for women living in Ireland", and it criticises the Government for doing "little to mitigate the effects of a condemnatory public discourse on abortion".

The report, which will be launched in Dublin today, was partially leaked on, an online news service set up by Canadian pro-life organisation, Campaign Life Coalition.

The website accuses Human Rights Watch of promoting the "right" to abortion and claims it "advises the elimination of other civil rights" because "it urges that doctors be legally obliged to refer their patients to an abortionist, that publicly funded health institutions be required to have an abortionist on staff, and even that conscientious objection be limited "to individual medical staff, excluding institutions and administrative staff’." also reports that Human Rights Watch bases its plea for a change in the Irish abortion laws on grounds that "authoritative interpretations of international law recognise that obtaining a safe and legal abortion is crucial to women’s effective enjoyment and exercise of their human rights".

Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother.

This includes a risk arising from a threat of suicide.

Women can travel abroad to get an abortion and it is lawful to provide information about abortions abroad, subject to strict conditions. It is not legal to encourage or advocate an abortion in individual cases.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, January 28, 2010