Amnesty is a human rights organisation. Our position on abortion, like our position on every other issue, is grounded in international human rights law and standards.
Whoever you are, wherever you live, all the decisions you make about your own body should be yours. Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights. They guarantee that everyone should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies, get accurate information about their health care options and access sexual and reproductive health services. We are campaigning to make sure that we all have control over our sexual and reproductive choices.
Women and girls in Ireland have a human right to access abortion services. In order to comply with international human rights law, governments must provide access to abortion not just in theory but in practice. States have a legal obligation to ensure that access to abortion is effectively available to women and girls and free from any barriers or unnecessary delays.
Women are more likely to be able to access abortion services, when it is available on request in early stages of pregnancy. International organisations like the World Health Organisation and UN human rights bodies agree that when abortion is only allowed in limited circumstances women are more likely to face barriers in accessing abortion services, even when they qualify for a legal abortion.
Women and girls must also have access to abortion on the minimum grounds set out under international human rights law for the duration of their pregnancies. Therefore, they should have access to safe and legal abortion when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, when the pregnancy poses a risk to the woman’s health or following a severe or fatal foetal impairment diagnosis. Abortion ‘on request’ should be available without limits for adolescent girls, guaranteeing their best interests, and ensuring in law and practice that their views are always heard and respected in abortion decisions.
We do not take a position on whether or not an individual woman or girl should have an abortion, just that it should be her choice to make, together with the medical professionals and loved ones she chooses to involve. Interestingly, our Red C poll found that 80% of people are aware that women have a right to access abortion in certain circumstances and that 87% would favour expanded access to abortion.
In October 2017, we commissioned RED C to conduct further polling to ascertain the extent to which people in Ireland supported the recommendations put forward by the Citizens’ Assembly. It found that, of those who have an opinion, a majority of people in Ireland (60%) believe that women should have access to abortion on request, either outright or within specific gestational limits. People’s support was broadly consistent across all age groups, regions and demographics.
International law also calls for the decriminalisation of abortion in all circumstances. No woman should ever face criminal charges for having had an abortion regardless of her circumstances. No medical professional should be prosecuted for providing an essential abortion-related healthcare service.
Decriminalisation means removing the criminal sanctions (currently a prison term of up to 14 years or a fine of up to €4,000) which women and medical professionals face if found guilty of having or administrating an illegal abortion. Decriminalising abortion does not mean unregulated abortion. International human rights law recognises that states can put reasonable abortion regulations in place.