Ireland’s abortion laws treat women as criminals and place them in grave danger.
That is the conclusion of a damning new report issued yesterday by Amnesty International.
Close to 177,000 Irish women have traveled abroad for abortions since 1971, the report noted, with some 4,000 currently making the journey each year.
Seeking an illegal abortion in Ireland carries the risk of 14 years in jail, and, for medical practitioners, conveying information about termination options bring the threat of a €4,000 fine.
“Ireland’s abortion law criminalizes women, girls and the health care professionals who try to help them,” the report, titled “She is Not a Criminal: The impact of Ireland’s abortion law” states.
Ireland has been praised across international headlines in recent weeks regarding its historic public vote for marriage equality and its upcoming legislation on gender identity.
However, as Lupe, one of the women Amnesty interviewed for the report, who was forced to carry a dead fetus for two months, noted, “When a woman gets pregnant in Ireland, she loses her human rights.”
Ireland’s abortion laws are rooted in the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, ratified in 1983, which protects an unborn fetus’ right to life and grants is equal importance to the life of its mother.
Amnesty points out that this has all too often resulted in the mother’s rights coming second in Ireland.
At a press conference in Dublin yesterday launching the Amnesty report, Dr. Rhona Mahony, master of the Holles Street Maternity Hospital, stated that little had changed for medical practitioners since the case of Savita Halappanavar, who in 2012 was denied a termination despite the fact that at 17 weeks pregnant her doctors had confirmed the fetus would not survive and that Halappanavar would have a miscarriage. She died a week later from septicemia.
The Journal reports that Mahony also pointed to the case last year of a clinically dead pregnant woman who was kept for weeks on life support. “The dignity of the mother was trumped by the right to life of the fetus. That such a case could happen, I find… I’m uncomfortable with that,” she said.
“Sometimes we’re not sure what the risk of death is” says Rhona Mahony, current Master of National Maternity Hospital. “How do you define the difference between serious health deterioration and the risk of death – there’s such an overlap between the two. And what about the woman’s right to have a view on what the risk is to her?” she asked.
The CEO of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, called for Ireland to change the 8th amendment and step forward to join other EU nations, citing the hypocrisy in the government’s tendency to look the other way at women who travel abroad to have their reproductive health rights met.
“We need to decriminalize abortion in Ireland … Any woman or girl in Ireland who accesses an abortion outside of the very narrow legal framework can face up to 14 years in prison – the same goes for the medical practitioner. Yet, our constitution permits women and girls to travel overseas to do something that if they did in Ireland they could go to prison for 14 years.”
“There are probably no women of childbearing age that voted for that amendment, so the notion that this reflects the will of the Irish people or Irish childbearing women has to be challenged,” he added.
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