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Lack of Abortion Services put Irish Women’s Health in Jeopardy, says UN Committee

By July 12, 2005News

– Release date: 13 July 2005

The Irish Family Planning Association has said that the Irish Government’s admission that it does not plan to make any legislative or constitutional changes regarding abortion is irresponsible.

Irish officials made the admission while appearing before the Committee from the UN Division for the Advancement of Women at UN Headquarters in New York yesterday (13.07.05).

The Committee specifically questioned the Government on what steps it intends to take to clarify the legal status of life-saving abortion, and to ensure that such services are readily available to preserve women's health and well-being as required by Article 12 of the Convention.

In addressing the questions posed by the Committee, the Minister for State at the Department of Justice, Frank Fahey, acknowledged that no further action is planned on the issue of abortion following the defeat of the 2002 referendum.

According to IFPA Spokesperson, Ivana Bacik, “while it is not news that the Irish Government intends sitting on its hands on the issue of abortion, it is acting in a highly irresponsible manner by avoiding – at the very least – the implementation of legislation to deal with a life-saving abortion.

“Admitting inaction before such a prominent UN body is an indication of this Government’s disregard for the UN Convention when it comes to dealing with the health and rights of Irish women.”

Members of the Committee, yesterday, observed that women's health remains jeopardized by the lack of abortion services in all situations, including for women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest, face severe and permanent health risks from continuing pregnancy or have a foetus with severe anomalies. It was also observed by members of the committee that the Government needs to respond to the health and human rights dimensions of abortion and should not accept the inequalities resulting from the current situations.

“Now that the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women have effectively backed the recent calls for legislation by the Irish Human Rights Commission to deal with abortion it would be prudent for the Government to rethink its strategy of inaction and avoidance,” said Ms Bacik.

The Irish Family Planning Association is part of a delegation of Irish NGOs attending this week’s hearings in New York. According to the IFPA delegate, the Committee also commended the establishment of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency in 2001 and the subsequent launch of the Agency's Strategy to address Crisis Pregnancy in 2003.