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Ireland’s inhumane abortion laws strongly criticised at UN Human Rights Council

17th May 2016, 10:14:08 UTC

Ireland must take heed of the recommendations made as part of its Universal Periodic Review today, particularly in relation to our harsh abortion laws, said Amnesty International.

Eighteen states made recommendations calling on Ireland to expand access to abortion, decriminalise abortion, provide women and girls with full information on abortion services, and amend its Constitution to allow for such reforms. This compares with six recommendations on abortion in its first review in 2011. Of the 18 recommendations related to abortion, only one was accepted – Switzerland’s recommendation that Ireland engage in consultations with stakeholders, including civil society organisations, to examine whether its Constitution could be revised and its legal framework on abortion broadened. The other 17 were deferred for further consideration.

“It is heartening to see so many of its peers call on Ireland to reform its inhumane abortion laws. While only one recommendation on abortion was accepted by Ireland, we urge the government to respond to the others positively in September. It is within its remit to commit to putting a constitutional referendum to the Irish people,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

It is heartening to see so many of its peers call on Ireland to reform its inhumane abortion laws.

Colm O'Gorman, executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland

“Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Access to abortion is only lawful in life-threatening situations, with a potential penalty of 14 years in prison for women or health professionals who have or perform abortions outside these narrow circumstances. We welcome Ireland accepting Switzerland’s recommendation that it engage with stakeholders, including civil society, towards potentially revising its Constitution and abortion laws. Our Constitution is no excuse for the human rights violations inflicted on women and girls every day. The programme for government commitment to put the Eighth Amendment to a Citizens’ Assembly is a potentially welcome step, but only if it is a meaningful and prompt process which includes women and girls’ human rights as a core benchmark.”

“A recent Amnesty International/Red C poll found that 87% of people want expanded access to abortion. The Irish government must honour its human rights obligations. It must not turn its back on women and girls in Ireland, or on the Irish public who are overwhelmingly calling for change.”

Amnesty International also welcomed Ireland’s giving its early acceptance to 152 of the 262 recommendations made during its review, including that it ratify the human rights treaties it has signed.

“These treaties include the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and the Council of Convention on Violence Against Women. If ratified and implemented, these treaties would help improve the situation of many people in Ireland. It is deeply regrettable that Ireland has not enacted the legislation necessary to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, despite having signed the Convention in 2007. We hope that Ireland’s acceptance of the recommendations that it must ratify this treaty will lead to action,”said Colm O’Gorman.