Irish Women Challenge Abortion Ban, Appeal to European Court

As part of a major national campaign to legalize abortion in Ireland, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is backing the petition of three Irish women to the European Court of Human Rights. With IFPA’s support, the three women are arguing that Ireland’s abortion ban violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to privacy, freedom from “inhuman and degrading treatment,” legal safeguards to the life of an individual, and freedom from discrimination. IFPA Chairperson Catherine Forde said of the newly launched campaign, “This campaign is of unique significance, as it represents the first major initiative at moving forward on abortion in this country.”

Currently, abortion is outlawed in Ireland except in cases in which the woman’s life is in danger. In 2004, over 6,000 Irish women traveled to England to obtain abortions, according to the United Kingdom Ministry for Health Statistics. IFPA estimates that minimally a few hundred or more women traveled to other countries, including the Netherlands, France, and Spain, to access abortion services last year. This does not include the number of poor women unable to travel who are too often forced turn to unsafe, illegal abortions.

“Since the first Constitutional referendum on abortion in 1983 [which introduced a constitutional prohibition of abortion], Ireland has changed: more women living in Ireland access abortion services and more women feel angry and frustrated that they have to travel to Britain and other countries to secure these services. The only thing that has not changed is the lack of courage and leadership demonstrated by successive Governments in dealing with abortion in a realistic and rational way,” said Forde.


Irish Family Planning Association 8/9/05; Reuters 8/10/05

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