Ireland should change the abortion laws

Need to adopt gender sensitive approach

Adv.Asim Sarode


In most of the countries in the world an abortion is allowed in specific life-threatening circumstances, in fact the Irish Left-wing MPs Clare Daly and Joan Collins had introduced a Bill in Parliament earlier this year to allow such abortions. But we can see that when it comes to bring some Laws or Rules to protect human rights of vulnerable classes’ maximum governments in the worlds are bit slow in acting on it. It is very unfortunate that a woman has died because Galway University Hospital refused to perform an abortion needed to prevent serious risk to her life. Laws in various countries are also very clear on the point that in a situation were a woman’s life is in danger then priority is always given to woman’s life.

The access to abortion in Ireland is not in the line with the international human rights law. Ireland as a Nation seems to have failed in ensuring that they are following the norms mentioned in The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. On this background it is important to take note that the report of the UN's Review of Ireland's human rights record in October 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. Not only this but in 2011 the UN Committee Against Torture urged Ireland to clarify the scope of legal abortion through statutory law and this has been part of records.

The CEDAW Convention defines discrimination against women as "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."

The tragic case of Savita 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. 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 and the same right has already been established as a Constitutional principle by the Irish Supreme Court also. The 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.

In India while running campaign against sex selective abortion we always feel that there shall not be encroachment on women’s right to abort.  We are having a good law at place but culturally we have not given any decision making authority to women in our country when it comes to reproductive rights or health rights issues. It was inexcusable that a life had been lost by the implementation of a grossly unjust and unfair law which denied abortion even when the woman’s life was in imminent danger. We as a Nation which has signed the CEDAW convention, is also not implementing the provisions mentioned in it and not accepting every women’s right over her body. What has happened in Ireland is also against the concept mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) initiated by the United Nations.

It is surprising that the Irish Govt said that it will go slow in making any changes in abortion laws prevailing in Ireland at present. It is high time that Irish govt should adopt gender sensitive and right based approach regarding the abortion laws.