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20th December 2018, 16:16:14 UTC

Today, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 was signed into law by the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. This legislation will see access to abortion on request up to 12 weeks and on restricted grounds beyond this, from 1 January.

Amnesty International welcomes the signing into law of the bill as a hugely significant milestone.

“We welcome Ireland’s new abortion law as both a historical milestone for this country and an inspiration for millions of people globally. Ireland’s abortion law was one of the most restrictive in the world, and today that is finally ending,” said Sorcha Tunney, Campaign Coordinator of It’s Time campaign for Amnesty International Ireland.  

In 2015, Amnesty International published its global report, She is not a Criminal, which exposed the cruel and discriminatory impact of Ireland’s abortion law. It also began its campaign for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment, and for legislation that is in line with Ireland’s international human rights obligations.

“Today is also a day to reflect on where we have come from. For over 35 years, women and girls have been denied access to safe and legal abortion beyond when their life was at risk. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls were forced to travel, forced into secrecy and shame. They were gravely denied their human rights.

“In May, the people of Ireland voted by a landslide for access to abortion care based on a pregnant person’s right to make decisions about her pregnancy, and her health. People clearly see it for the human rights issue that it is. And for Ireland to move from a near total ban on abortion to access on request is a huge win in the global campaign for reproductive rights.”

2018 was the year women said ‘No more’

“This year, Amnesty is celebrating women human rights defenders around the world, who stood up and said ‘no more’. In Ireland, it was the women who spoke out and shared their abortion stories that changed this country,” said Sorcha Tunney.

“In doing so, they put an end to the harm inflicted by the constitutional ban on abortion. We thank you yet again, and know that millions of people around the world have been inspired by your bravery.”

Legislation a huge step forward but flaws remain

“There are still significant flaws in the legislation that will create barriers to women accessing the care they need. We look forward to the full implementation of the Act but will be looking to engage with the Department of Health in its three-year review. We will continue our campaigning to make sure the law is human rights compliant, and that pregnant people are not prevented from accessing the healthcare they need,” said Sorcha Tunney.

Issues of concern include the high and potentially ambiguous threshold created by the language on ‘serious harm’ to a women’s health, lack of access in cases of pregnancies with severe rather than fatal foetal impairments, the three-day mandatory waiting period, and the continued criminalisation of health professionals.