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UN puts pressure on Irish government to liberalise abortion laws

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Summary of story from European Women’s Lobby, October 6, 2011

United Nations member states took a stand for Irish women’s reproductive rights at the UN headquarters in Geneva this week during an examination of Ireland’s domestic human rights record.

Member states refused to accept vague promises from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on the abortion issue and demanded concrete legislative action. It strongly recommended that Ireland liberalises its restrictive abortion laws.

Abortion is against the law in Ireland unless the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman.

Since 1980, some 150,000 women have travelled abroad to access safe abortion services. This highlights the hypocrisy of Ireland’s abortion regulations which are among the most restrictive in the world and out of step with 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.

In response to questions and recommendations at the hearing, 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”.

Irish Family Planning Association Chief Executive Niall Behan said: “Today was a momentous day for women in Ireland. It is heartening to see so many of our UN partners taking a stand for women’s reproductive rights at such an important human rights forum.”

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