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12th June 2017, 14:43:10 UTC

Alarming case highlights flaws with grounds-based legislation

Amnesty International has called for urgent answers to the serious questions raised by a case reported by the Child Care Law Reporting Project yesterday. It reported that an adolescent girl was detained under mental health legislation rather than provided with an abortion under the suicide ground of the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

“This appears to be a distressing example of the very real and damaging effects Ireland’s abortion laws have on women and girls in Ireland. This case raises some very serious concerns. It appears that the psychiatrist who objected to the termination agreed that the girl was suicidal, but felt that other ‘treatment’ would be better. This shows how unclear the pathway laid out in the 2013 Act is for obtaining a life-saving abortion. The Act and its guidance provide little clarity in how medical professionals make their decisions on terminations, leaving these important judgement calls subject to vagueness and subjectivity. It has been reported that this girl and her mother thought they were traveling to Dublin for a termination which casts serious doubts on the healthcare information they were provided with,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

In 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published its Concluding Observations on Ireland which expressed concerns at how Ireland’s abortion laws deny the human rights of adolescent girls. The Committee called for the decriminalisation of abortion in all circumstances, and that access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services must be put in place for all adolescent girls.

“This case also illustrates how inadequate the 2013 Act is in ensuring timely and practical access to abortion where there is a risk to a pregnant girl’s life. Procedures requiring women or girls to effectively prove they are suicidal add to their distress. We already know that some women who would be entitled to access an abortion under the 2013 Act are instead opting to travel abroad. This alarming case also highlights why any reform of Ireland’s abortion laws must avoid the barriers grounds-based legislation bring. The Government and new Joint Oireachtas Committee must pay close attention to cases like this. They must take heed of the Citizens’ Assembly’s two-thirds majority vote for access to abortion on request at least in early pregnancy. This is the best way to avoid putting women and girls through traumatic and unnecessary procedures that can delay or deny access to abortion,” said Colm O’Gorman.