Human Rights and Abortion Law Reform in Ireland

Posted in politics on March 28th, 2014 by monika, March 2014

Barrister and former IFPA Chairperson Catherine Forde presided over a panel of national and international experts who analysed abortion law in Ireland through the lens of equality, criminalisation, human rights and stigma, and explored ways forward to advance Irish abortion law reform.

Speakers included:

Dr Ruth Fletcher, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Rebecca Cook, University of Toronto
Julie Kay, Lead Counsel in A, B and C v Ireland
Professor Siobhán Mullally, University College Cork
Mark Kelly, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Watch highlights from the seminar below

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Abandoned By a Nation

Posted in politics on March 20th, 2014 by monika, 3.3.2014

IR_feature_image_3-13-14The Center filed a new case against Ireland to stop its health care system from turning its back on women in desperate need of help.

03.13.14 - It’s nearly impossible to go through this life and not encounter a serious medical issue. In those moments of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, we desperately want information: about what has happened, what will happen, the choices we have, the consequences of our decisions. And we want that information from the people who should know best—doctors and other health professionals.
We filed another lawsuit this week against Ireland with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. A woman named Siobhán asked for our help to demand justice because of the horrendous treatment she experienced in her encounter with the Irish health care system, at a time when she was utterly vulnerable. When she needed doctors the most, they abdicated their responsibilities and abandoned her. They did so because of Ireland’s draconian law on abortion—a near absolute ban—and the deep-seated stigma it has instilled throughout the country.
Siobhán’s story is like many stories we hear coming out of Ireland. She and her husband were thrilled to give their 20-month old son a sibling. They even brought him to the 20-week ultrasound, in 2010, so he could see the sonogram image himself. But there wouldn’t be any joy that day.
A few minutes into the procedure, the sonographer told Siobhán that something was wrong. She did everything she could not to lose emotional control in an effort to avoid upsetting her son.
A doctor performed another scan and told her that she had the condition holoprosencephaly, a disorder caused by a chromosomal abnormality in which the fetus’ brain fails to fully develop. The doctor said that the fetus would likely die in the womb but could possibly go full term. But there was no chance of survival post birth. Then the doctor said, “In another jurisdiction, they would offer a termination, but obviously not in this country.” The doctor then advised Siobhán to carry on with the pregnancy “as normal.”
There was absolutely no way to continue “as normal.” The idea seems outrageous. It’s not hard to imagine the shock Siobhán felt. “It was as if we were in a bad dream,” she writes in her affidavit to the Human Rights Committee. “I was scared about how I was going to cope with potentially another 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

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Anti-choice psychiatrists undermine abortion law

Posted in politics on February 16th, 2014 by monika, Fri Feb 14, 2014, by Veronica O’Keane

imageOpinion: A society that aspires to be humane must recognise the reality of human difficulties
The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (PLDP Act) was signed into law in July last year and became operative at the start of 2014. This law was 20 years in gestation, since the Supreme Court ruling in the X case in 1993, which allowed for lawful abortion when the mother’s life was at risk, including the risk to life from suicide. In two subsequent referendums the Irish people voted to support the Supreme Court decision that suicidality could be a legitimate reason for terminating a pregnancy.
The regulations and procedures about how the service will operate are laid out in the PLDP Act and statutory instrument. But a hitch has now come to light: guidelines for clinicians on the new legislation are still pending. This was brought to light in an Irish Times article by Kitty Holland on January 3rd. While there are some minor professional issues related to training that remain to be resolved, the real problem is how women will access the service. The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland had expressed “extreme concern” at the absence of guidance for GPs in finding suitable psychiatrists to assess a suicidal woman requesting an abortion.
Sexual violence

Let us imagine a hypothetical case. A woman, let us call her Kate, becomes pregnant following an act of sexual violence. She is distressed and inconsolable and cannot contemplate continuing with the pregnancy. She would rather die than continue with the pregnancy and forced motherhood. She is not depressed, but she is suicidal and the only remedy for her is the termination of the pregnancy.
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Irish abortion ban case taken to UN Human Rights Committee

Posted in politics on November 22nd, 2013 by monika, 21 November 2013, by Henry McDonald

Doctors call for referendum as woman asks UN to denounce as ‘inhumane’ prohibition on terminations for medical reasons. Ireland’s continued ban on most abortions has come under attack nationally and internationally, with campaigners calling for a referendum on termination rights, and UN intervention. Last week Amanda Mellet became the first of three women to formally ask the UN to denounce the prohibition on abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities as “cruel and inhumane”. She has risked opprobrium in Ireland for speaking out about having a termination in England because her baby would have been born dead. Backed by an international pro-choice campaign group, Mellet wants the UN to rule that Ireland’s ban in such incidences is akin to torture.

Her case highlights the fact that despite allowing for limited terminations, recent abortion law reforms do not cover the majority of Irish women who travel to Britain to end crisis pregnancies. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, passed by the Irish parliament in July, only allows for terminations when there is a direct threat to the life of the mother, or where there is a clear suicide risk.
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A remarkable account of Savita’s death

Posted in politics on October 31st, 2013 by monika

The Irish Times,  Saturday October 26th by Olivia O’Leary

Savita_imageKitty Holland, the ‘Irish Times’ journalist who first reported the death of Savita Halappanavar, has written a book that will make you both sad and angry
The shocking death of Savita Halappanavar forced Irish gynaecologists and obstetricians to go public about the fact that the abortion ban in the Constitution, and the failure of successive governments to legislate for abortion as required by the X-case judgment, had left doctors in a legislative no-man’s-land

When I had my baby in 1983, one of the brilliant nurses in the maternity hospital came along three days later and sat on the side of my bed. “Now,” she said, “it is my duty to tell you and all new mothers about the natural method of family planning.” “The temperature method?” I inquired. “And what about it?” “It doesn’t work,” she said and proceeded to tell me about something that would.
It was a Catholic hospital – most of them were – and here was a professional trying to obey the rules but determined that she wouldn’t lie to her patient. For decades, Irish nurses and doctors have trodden that often impossible line between rules or laws insisted on by the Roman Catholic Church and the best interests of their patients.
But we heard little of that constant dilemma until the shocking death of Savita Halappanavar forced Irish gynaecologists and obstetricians to go public. The abortion ban in the Constitution, and the failure of successive governments to legislate for abortion as required by the X-case judgment, left doctors in a legislative no-man’s-land.
The clinical director of the National Maternity Hospital, Peter Boylan, revealed the minefield they crossed every day in trying to look after their patients. “The current situation is like a sword of Damocles hanging over us. If we do something with a good intention, but it turns out to be illegal, the consequences are extremely serious for medical practitioners.” The masters of the National Maternity Hospital and of the Rotunda both called for legal clarity.

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Olivia O’Leary is a journalist and broadcaster. She does a political column on Tuesdays for RTÉ Radio’s Drivetime.

Savita: The Tragedy That Shook a Nation, by Kitty Holland, is published by Transworld Ireland, priced £14.99

Abortion law outdated and cruel

Posted in politics on October 10th, 2013 by monika

Belfast Telegraph, Editor’s Viewpoint – 10 October 2013

It would take a very hard heart not to be moved by the story of Sarah Ewart in this newspaper today. The young mum and her husband were devastated when they were told that the unborn baby was suffering from a severe form of spina bifida and had no chance of survival.

But, unlike any other part of the UK, Sarah could not have a termination here because of our archaic laws. Instead she had to travel to London to have an abortion which she had to pay for.
This was not a decision taken lightly. As Sarah says, the baby was much wanted and had it been affected by a condition like Down’s Syndrome she would never have considered a termination. It was not a case of ending an inconvenient pregnancy but rather a purely logical decision given the circumstances. While terminations are permissible here they can only be performed where the mother’s life is at risk or there is a long term or permanent risk to her physical or mental health.
Those are extremely restrictive terms and surely this case – and there inevitably will be others of a similar nature – should make the politicians think again.

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New campaign group calls for abortion referendum

Posted in politics on October 8th, 2013 by monika, Tuesday, October 08, 2013 by Mary Regan Deputy Political Editor


There are fresh calls for a referendum on abortion, with a new campaign group urging a repeal of the eighth amendment giving an equal right to the life of a pregnant woman and the unborn child.

They want the question of allowing terminations in cases of rape or when a foetus has no chance of survival outside the womb, to be discussed by the Constitutional Convention. The Abortion Rights Campaign will be supported by a number of TDs who plan to raise the issue in the Dáil.

Senior ministers have acknowledged the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act, passed in the summer, is not perfect because it does not allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities. But Coalition parties are unlikely to want to revisit the thorny subject soon, particularly Fine Gael, who lost five TDs over the legislation.

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Women Have Abortions Every Day: It’s Just One Choice

Posted in politics on September 29th, 2013 by monika


Stigma silences the voices of many women and girls.
“Women Have Abortions Every Day: It’s Just One Choice” aims to dispel myths that stigmatise women who seek abortion services. The video was funded and produced by the IFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) as part of the MYX project.
When we break the stigma, we create more social respect for all women who seek abortion services.

Women tell abortion stories as they urge No More Shame

Posted in politics on August 21st, 2013 by monika, Wednesday, August 07, 2013, by Dan Buckley

“There are many different reasons why a woman would need to have a pregnancy terminated,” says Claire. “I never thought I would be a woman to have a reason to do so, but I was.”
Claire’s story of how she came to have an abortion is not typical of the thousands of Irish woman who travel to Britain each year for terminations.
Yet her experience mirrors the heartache of women who endure crisis pregnancies and feel blighted by the choices available to them here.

Her story is among a number of those featured in No More Shame, an online video project that brings personal experiences of abortion into the public domain with videos of well-known actors retelling anonymous abortion stories.
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Irish film breaks silence on abortion trail to UK

Posted in politics on August 21st, 2013 by monika, 7 August 2013, Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent

No More Shame video, available from Thursday on YouTube, spotlights stories of Irish women forced to go to UK for abortion
They are stories that are rarely heard in Ireland, personal and often harrowing real life tales of women forced to travel to the UK to have abortions.
But this week 12 women will speak out publicly for the first time in a new film, made in response to the Irish government’s limited abortion law reforms which, to the anger of many campaigners, excluded many women who want to have terminations in the republic.
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The No More Shame videos will broadcast testimony from Irish women forced to travel to Britain for terminations: NoMoreShameIreland