Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws treat women like “child-bearing vessels”, said Amnesty International today as it launched a global campaign calling for a change to the legislation citing the case of an Indian woman who died in 2012 after being denied abortion. Women and girls who need abortions are treated “like criminals, stigmatised and forced to travel abroad, taking a serious toll on their mental and physical health,” the rights group said.
In a report titled ‘She is not a Criminal: The Impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law’, Amnesty claimed pregnant women and girls risk putting their health and lives in danger if they remain in Ireland, a traditionally Catholic country where abortion is deeply divisive and evokes strong reactions in public debates. The report, part of its campaign My Body My Rights, includes cases of Irish state prioritising the rights of the unborn over the rights of women.
One such case is that of 31 year-old Indian woman Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 after being admitted to hospital with pregnancy-related back pain. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she was denied an abortion even though doctors confirmed that the foetus was unviable and she would certainly miscarry. Intervention to save her life came too late and she died from septicaemia one week after presenting with her symptoms. Ireland’s abortion law is one of the most restrictive in the world, forcing at least 4,000 women and girls to travel outside the country for an abortion every year, it said.
Women and girls who cannot travel are left without access to necessary healthcare, or risk criminal penalties if they undergo illegal abortions at home. “The human rights of women and girls are violated on a daily basis because of a constitution that treats them like child-bearing vessels,” said Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty. “The Irish state can no longer ignore this reality, and the appalling impact it is having on thousands of people every year,” Shetty said.
Ireland is the only country in Europe- apart from Andorra, Malta and San Marino– that bans women from getting abortions even in cases of rape, severe or fatal foetal impairment or a risk to their health. Amnesty today launched a campaign calling on Ireland to change its law so that women and girls can have abortions in those cases. The Irish abortion laws even makes it a crime for doctors and counsellors to give women complete information on what treatment they need and how to get an abortion safely.
In cases where a woman’s life is in danger and the appropriate medical response required is the termination of her pregnancy, Irish doctors face huge difficulty in determining at what point they are permitted to intervene.