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Criticism ahead of abortion ban fight

By December 8, 2009News

Irish Examiner – 8 December 2009

By Catherine Shanahan

AN international pro-choice movement has criticised the Government for failing to protect the reproductive rights of women on the eve of a legal challenge to the Irish ban on abortion.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), of which the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is a member, said the Government had "consistently put barriers in the way of women" who seek an abortion, forcing them to travel overseas.

The federation’s director general Dr Gill Greer, said: "In this the Irish Government is not only going against the global trend to legalise and liberalise abortion laws, they are going against the majority of their own citizens whom recent opinion polls show to be broadly in favour of liberalising the law."

The hearing begins tomorrow in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where three women living in Ireland will challenge the Republic of Ireland’s ban on abortion.

The women, known as A, B and C, are challenging the ban on the grounds that the law jeopardises their health and wellbeing in violation of their rights under a number of articles in the European Convention on Human Rights

The three women at the centre of the case include:

A woman who was informed by her doctor that she was at risk of an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life threatening condition.

A woman who had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, who became pregnant unintentionally and was unaware of her pregnancy.

A woman who was living in poverty and whose children had been taken into the care of the state; at the time she became unintentionally pregnant she was in the process of improving her circumstances with a view to regaining custody of her children. She considered a further child would jeopardise the reunification of her family. All three women were forced to travel to England to access legal abortion services.

The women lodged a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in August 2005. If successful, the case would establish a minimum degree of protection to which a woman seeking an abortion to protect her health and well-being would be entitled, under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Yesterday the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said there was "never any moral justification for the law to place a barrier between women and medical care". The IFPA said that since 1980, at least 138,000 women and girls have travelled aboard to access safe and legal abortion services.

The IFPA said it "has extensive knowledge of the extreme physical, financial and emotional hardship experienced by women forced to travel abroad for health care they believe should be available to them at home".

However a statement from the Pro-Life Campaign said the IFPA’s "sponsorship of the A, B and C cases… ignores the fact that Ireland without abortion is the safest country in the world in which to be pregnant and the growing evidence that abortion has very serious negative consequences for some women".