Ireland: Abortion issue must be clarified by Irish government

Ireland must ensure that its domestic law and policy on access to abortion is in line with international human rights law, said Amnesty International today.The organization – which has written to Irish Minister for Health James Reilly – is concerned the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar illustrates a gap in Irish law and policy on the most basic human rights level – that is a woman’s right to access abortion where her life is at risk. This right has already been established as a Constitutional principle by the Irish Supreme Court Amnesty International also expressed its concern about the lack of clarity as to whether or not a specific legislative framework is required. “International human rights law is clear about the right of a woman to access a safe and legal abortion where her life is at risk,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Ireland. “Successive Irish governments have failed in their duty to provide the necessary clarity on how this right is protected and vindicated, leaving women in Ireland in a very vulnerable position. Government must offer this clarity without further delay.” “Ireland has been subject to criticism from international human rights bodies for its failure to bring domestic legislation in line with international human rights principles, including a very clear ruling from the European Court of Human Rights,” said Marianne Mollmann, senior policy advisor at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat. The European Court of Human Rights stated the need for a legislative or regulatory regime providing an accessible and effective procedure for women to access a lawful abortion in Ireland when their lives are threatened by their pregnancy.   The report of the UN’s Review of Ireland’s human rights record in October of last year contains repeated calls from UN member states to bring Ireland’s domestic law in line with international human rights obligations and at the very least regulate access to life-saving abortions. In 2011 the UN Committee Against Torture urged Ireland to clarify the scope of legal abortion through statutory law. Amnesty International has noted the establishment of an investigation into the case of Savita Halappanavar, but has urged the Irish government to ensure that it be effective and transparent.