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Amnesty abortion report details 'human rights violations' in Ireland

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
The report says that "many of the specific human rights violations highlighted in this report are rooted in discriminatory and harmful stereotypes of women and girls"
The report says that "many of the specific human rights violations highlighted in this report are rooted in discriminatory and harmful stereotypes of women and girls"

An extensive report published by Amnesty into Ireland's abortion regime has found the country is not complying with its international human rights obligations.

The report, 'She Is Not A Criminal: The impact of Ireland’s abortion law', says that Ireland's abortion laws are putting women and girls at risk every single day. 

Every day, between 10 and 12 women and girls living in Ireland travel to England for an abortion, the report says. 

These women, the international human rights organisation said, are being treated like criminals and stigmatised under some of the most restrictive laws around abortion in the world. 

"The findings of this report reveal violations of fundamental human rights," Amnesty says. "These rights include the right to life, the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, the right to privacy, the right to health, the right to determine the number and spacing of children, and the right to information, and the right to non-discrimination.

"The issues described in this report demonstrate that Ireland is not implementing its international obligations to respect, protect and fulfil these rights."

The report adds that "many of the specific human rights violations highlighted [in this report] are rooted in discriminatory and harmful stereotypes of women and girls."

"Ireland’s law, which allows for the punishment of women and girls undergoing abortion as well as the doctors providing abortions, is in violation of international human rights law, regardless of whether or not the law is applied.

"The Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, along with other UN treaty bodies, have called for the removal of punitive measures for abortion, in Ireland and elsewhere."

Only allowing abortion if the woman’s life is at risk, Ireland’s abortion law is one of the "most restrictive" in the world, forcing at least 4,000 women and girls to travel outside the country for an abortion every year at considerable mental, financial and physical cost.

Women and girls who cannot travel are left without access to necessary health treatment, or risk criminal penalties if they undergo illegal abortions at home.

"The recent Marriage Equality referendum showed a country that prides itself on being an open and inclusive society, but all is not well in the Republic of Ireland. The human rights of women and girls are violated on a daily basis because of a constitution that treats them like child-bearing vessels," said Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty.

"Women and girls who need abortions are treated like criminals, stigmatized and forced to travel abroad, taking a serious toll on their mental and physical health. The Irish state can no longer ignore this reality, and the appalling impact it is having on thousands of people every year."

As well as a change to the laws surrounding abortion, Amnesty are also calling for the law - which makes it a crime for doctors and counsellors to give women information about how to get a safe abortion - to be repealed.

"Ireland’s draconian laws have created a climate of fear where counsellors can be fined for telling women how to seek medical care, and as a result some women are avoiding doctors altogether," said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

"Ireland turns a blind eye when women travel abroad for abortions, and is indifferent to the suffering involved. It condemns the weak, poor and vulnerable who cannot travel to become criminals for making decisions about their bodies, decisions which sometimes are a matter of life and death.

"Ireland must amend the constitution and remove the protection of the foetus. This needs to happen urgently as Ireland’s current laws are putting the lives of women and girls at risk every day."