Amnesty calls for change in Ireland’s abortion laws

"Pregnant women and girls risk putting their health and lives in danger if they remain in Ireland," says an Amnesty report on Ireland’s abortion laws

June 09, 2015 07:32 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 05:08 am IST - NEW DELHI

>Savita Halappanavar’s death in October 2012 from infection, after she was not allowed to terminate her pregnancy forced international attention on the controversial abortion laws in Ireland, but according to Amnesty International, thousands of women in the country continue being at risk and at least 4,000 travel outside for an abortion every year at “considerable mental, financial and physical cost.”

In a report ‘She is not a criminal’ released on Tuesday, Amnesty International highlights the risks that women in Ireland continue to face, owing to the orthodox law that bars abortion. Abortion in Ireland is illegal, unless the life of the mother is in danger. Ireland, which recently voted for same sex marriages, has incidentally had five national referendums on the issue of allowing abortions, and in 2013 a new law allowing abortion under certain circumstances was passed. Ireland is the only country in Europe — apart from Andorra, Malta and San Marino — that bans women from getting abortions even in cases of rape, severe or fatal foetal impairment or a risk to their health.

Numbers speak

177,000 The number of women and girls who have travelled from Ireland to England and Wales for an abortion since 1971.
4,000 The potential fine a medical staff could pay in Euros for referring a woman for an abortion, or giving comprehensive information about the procedure.
1,000-1,500 The estimated average financial cost in Euros of travelling abroad for an abortion.
24 The number of days healthcare providers kept a clinically-dead pregnant woman on life support, against her family’s wishes, because the foetus had a heart beat in December 2014.
14 The prison sentence in years that you are threatened with if you have an illegal abortion in Ireland, or assist anyone in having one.

The report put together by Amnesty says, Ireland needs to do more to allow women and girls access to safe, legal abortions. “Pregnant women and girls risk putting their health and lives in danger if they remain in Ireland,” the report says. The conditional permission has also come in for criticism; the report says by allowing abortion only if the woman’s life is at risk, Ireland’s law is one of the “most restrictive” in the world. “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 report says.

The report presents testimony from women who have undergone abortions abroad, some of whom suffered miscarriages but were forced to carry a dead or unviable foetus inside them for weeks. It cites the case of Róisín, who was forced to carry a dead foetus for weeks because doctors wanted to be absolutely sure there was no foetal heartbeat.

The report also quotes Lupe, who was carrying a foetus with no heartbeat for 14 weeks, and was forced to travel to her home country of Spain for proper medical treatment. “I didn’t feel safe at all…I was feeling really scared because it became clear to me, that if any complication was raised, these people would let me die,” she is quoted to have told Amnesty.

A dentist of Indian origin, >Ms. Halappanvar too was denied an abortion , because the health workers concluded that the foetus had a heartbeat. She eventually died of infection at the University Hospital Galway.

Pushing for a change in the country’s abortion rules, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said: “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.” He went to add that women and girls who need abortions are treated like “criminals, stigmatised and forced to travel abroad”. “The Irish state can no longer ignore this reality, and the appalling impact it is having on thousands of people every year,” he said.

Medical practitioners who Amnesty spoke to said they are also in favour of amending the rules. “Irish law even makes it a crime for doctors and counsellors to give women complete information on what treatment they need and how to get an abortion safely. Doctors and counsellors spoke to Amnesty International of their frustration at Ireland’s Regulation of Information Act, which rights group want Ireland to repeal,” the report says.

Amnesty International also launched its ‘My Body My Rights’ campaign in Ireland against government efforts to control and criminalise women who undergo abortion. The campaign will see a global movement of seven million people campaign on a human rights issue in the Republic of Ireland for the first time, with petitions, demonstrations and letters targeting Irish leaders.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.