Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Legislate for abortion rights for Irish Women now – A call for Action

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After the ABC case . . .

Legislate for abortion rights for Irish Women now

A call for Action

Thursday 27th January, 7.30pm in the Central Hotel

Speakers include representatives from the Irish Family Planning Association, Alliance for Choice, Choice Ireland and People Before Profit

The recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of ABC v Ireland is an important victory for Irish women in their fight to secure their right to access abortion in their own country. In particular the ECHR unanimous criticism of the Irish government’s failure to provide legislation in line with the X case Judgement, highlights decades of political cowardice and active negligence by the state.

The experiences of the three Irish women in the ABC case reveal something of the daily reality faced by thousands of Irish women who are forced to travel abroad for abortions. Since 1980 at least 140,000 women have been forced to travel to the UK and beyond to access safe abortion services.

Yet the Irish state has frequently used injunctions to prevent individuals from travelling abroad for abortion, active sabotaging women’s health decisions. As recently as 2007, a 17-year-old girl in the custody of the Health Services Executive had to go to court to get permission to travel to the Britain for an abortion.

Organisations that provide information on how to access abortion services abroad face restrictions on when and how this information can legally be conveyed, under threat of penalties and nothing is done to prevent “rogue” agencies from circulating blatantly misleading and false information.

Abortion is a reality for Irish women; Ireland’s abortion rate is comparable to other European countries where abortion is illegal. Yet its illegal nature in Ireland forces women to hide out of fear, shame or criminal prosecution. Opinion polls show that the majority of Irish people are in favour of more open abortion laws. Indeed, Irish people have never been given the opportunity to vote in favour of abortion but in recently years despite numerous attempt to further restrict abortion rights, have consistently voted against these restrictions.

The ABC judgment was a step forward for Irish women, but it is only the beginning.

Immediate legislate for abortion in line with X case judgement must be a key priority for the next government. There should be no question of a further referendum. There have been two referendums on the X case judgment and in both case the electorate rejected the government’s attempts to further restrict abortion.

We are calling on the Labour Party to make this legislation a core demand of their programme of government.

However we must also recognise that legislation in line with the X case is only the beginning. The majority of women who choose to have an abortion do so not because their life it at risk. These reasons are different, complicated and unique to each particular woman. Therefore, only a change in the law that allows for free, safe and legal abortion can account for this diversity.

As a general election looms we are calling on all pro-choice activists to come to Thursday meeting to discuss how to build a campaign to put issue of legal abortion front and centre as a political priority for the next government.

Ailbhe Smyth and Therese Caherty
Feminist Open Forum

Written by tomasoflatharta

Jan 23, 2011 at 7:24 pm

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