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Time for Clarity on Government’s Abortion Expert Group

By February 7, 2012News

11 October 2011

The Irish Government needs to immediately clarify how it intends to approach the implementation the A, B & C v Ireland abortion judgment, according to Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), following the publication of the Universal Periodic Review "Outcome Report".

Speaking at the examination of Ireland’s domestic human rights record at UN last week, the Minister for Justice made a commitment to deal with the abortion issue in an “adequate and comprehensive” way and to “meet our obligations under the convention of human rights”. He also recommitted to the establishment of an expert group to examine the issue. The Government has undertaken to “expeditiously implement” the judgment in reports to both at the UN and Council of Europe.

However, in failing to support six recommendations regarding Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws from member states, the Government is sending out mixed message regarding how it intends to implement the judgment, according to the IFPA.

Last week at the UN hearing, Spain, UK, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands and Slovenia called for either legislative measure to implement the A, B & C v Ireland judgment or the availability of abortion in the case of rape, incest and when a woman’s health and wellbeing are at risk.

IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “Ireland’s human rights reputation has been tarnished by our failure to comply with international human rights standards when it comes to abortion. The Council of Europe has already indicated that it requires decisive action from the Government on the issue. To date all the Government has done is announce its intention to set up an expert group.

“The terms of references and timeline of the expert group which it promised to set up in November must now be made public. Furthermore, it must also give a firm commitment to provide legislation for adequate abortion services and to give clarity to women and their doctors.”

-ENDS-

Abortion in Ireland:

Abortion is against the law in Ireland unless the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. Since 1980, some 150,000 women have travel abroad to access safe abortion services. This highlights the hypocrisy of Ireland’s abortion regulations which are among the most restrictive in the world.

Ireland’s restrictive laws on abortion are totally out of step with those of its European neighbours. Forty four out of 47 European countries provide for abortion to protect women’s health. The overwhelming consensus throughout Europe allows for some access to legal abortion to protect a woman’s health and well-being, applying a more effective, less punitive approach than that which is in force in Ireland.

About A, B & C v Ireland:

In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its verdict in the case of A, B & C v Ireland − a landmark challenge to Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. The Court unanimously found that Ireland’s failure to give effect to the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland when a woman’s life is at risk violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The decision reaffirmed the Supreme Court X Case judgment of 1992 and sent a very strong message to the State that it can no longer ignore the imperative to legislate for the provision of life-saving abortion services.

The case was taken by three women, supported by the IFPA, who travelled abroad for abortion services. They argued that the criminalisation of abortion services in Ireland jeopardised their health and wellbeing, in violation of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was heard before the Court’s Grand Chamber of 17 judges, which is reserved to hear cases that raise serious questions affecting the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights.