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UN calls on Ireland to reform abortion laws after landmark ruling

17th Jun 2016

The UN’s human rights committee has called on the Irish government to reform its restrictive abortion legislation.

The landmark ruling, which is expected to set an international precedent, calls on Ireland to introduce “accessible procedures for pregnancy termination” to prevent similar violations in the future. The judgment marks the first time that an international human rights committee has recognised that by criminalising abortion, a state has violated a woman’s human rights.

Ireland has signed the international covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR), which is part of the international bill of human rights. As such, it “should amend its law on voluntary termination of pregnancy, including if necessary its constitution, to ensure compliance with the covenant, including effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland”, the ruling stated.

Lawyers said the judgment could help trigger reform in other countries with restrictive abortion laws.

The ruling stated that Ireland needed to take measures to ensure that healthcare providers are able to supply full information on safe abortion services “without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions”, the committee said.

Abortion is permitted in Ireland only when there is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman. In every other circumstance it is a serious crime. Since 1983, the Irish constitution has placed the “right to life of the unborn” on an equal footing with the right to life of the pregnant woman.

Ireland’s health minister, Simon Harris, said he had read the committee’s report and had “met with families who have been through the trauma of knowing their baby will not survive and I have been very moved by hearing of their experiences. I want to see this issue addressed”.