The Irish Government will be called to account for Ireland’s almost total ban on abortion laws at the UN on Thursday.

Ireland’s domestic human rights record will be examined under the UN review process.

Six countries have already submitted questions on Ireland’s prohibitive abortion laws.
The six are the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, and Denmark.

It is expected that on Thursday, Ireland’s Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter will be called upon to account for its laws.

Currently abortion in Ireland is illegal unless the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. Since 1980, some 150,000 women have traveled abroad to access  abortion services.

A statement released by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) in advance of the review said “Ireland’s restrictive laws on abortion are totally out of step with those of its European neighbors. Forty four out of 47 European countries provide for abortion to protect women’s health.


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“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.”

Some of the questions that Shatter will face tomorrow include those from the UK, Netherlands, and Norway, who asked for clarification on the terms, references, and implementation of the expert group which the Government has promised to set up in response to the A, B & C v Ireland judgment at the European Court of Human Rights.

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 an abortion when a woman’s life is at risk violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Finland and Slovenia have asked the Irish Government to clarify the circumstances under which an abortion may be lawful in Ireland.

Denmark has questioned whether “Ireland intends to permit abortion in situations where a woman is pregnant as a result of rape, where her physical and mental health and wellbeing are at risk, or where the fetus has a severe abnormality incompatible with life outside the womb”.

Niall Behan, IFPA’s Chief Executive, said in advance of the review, “The IFPA is pleased that so many UN member states are standing up for Irish women’s reproductive rights at such an important human rights forum. We hope that the Minister for Justice will accept the genuine concern expressed by Ireland’s peers about our restrictive abortion laws and make a commitment to bring Irish abortion laws in line with international human rights standards”.