Human Rights Watch today launched a short report entitled: A State of Isolation: Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland. The full report is here and the executive summary is here. Maman Poulet blogs about it here. The report is very accessible and will be a really important resource for the future.
While everybody at home was paying attention to the budget, the Irish Times reports that Strasbourg saw the opening day of A, B and C v. Ireland. The webcast of this morning’s hearing is here and Channel 4 News includes a short report including footage of today’s proceedings and an interview with Ruth Fletcher of Keele University here.
There are two main elements to the state’s defence of the Irish legal regime on abortion. First, the Times reports that the Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC (left) insisted that the country’s abortion laws were based on “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”. Mr Gallagher suggested a broad Irish allegiance to the law as it stands when he said the country’s legal position on abortion had been endorsed in three referendums, as well as being safe-guarded in protocols attached to the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. However, it is also true to say that the three referendums, while they retained the prohibition on abortion, have steadily narrowed its scope since 1983 while a 2007 Irish Times mrbi poll indicated that Irish attitudes around abortion are considerably softer than the AG would allow.
A, B and C v. Ireland, the case in which three women will challenge Ireland’s abortion regime before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights begins today. It is the first Irish case to be heard by the Grand Chamber since Senator David Norris’ case which resulted in the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The Irish Family Planning Association provides resources here, I have blogged about the case in some detail here and there is more recent press coverage here, here, here, here, here and here. The ever-objective Irish Examiner deserves special mention for illustrating its coverage with a picture of a baby’s foot.
The issues affecting the three women in A, B and C – many of which are described in Anne Rossiter’s book ‘The Abortion Trail’ – are still very much live. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency recently reported a drop in the – still substantial – numbers of Irish women travelling to the UK for the purposes of abortion, at the same time highlighting the presence in the state of ‘rogue’ pregnancy advisory services designed to dissuade women from terminating their pregnancies. We promise further analysis when the judgment is handed down.
The Irish Times reminded us on Monday that the case of A, B and C v. Ireland, which examines our restrictive abortion laws, will be before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in a week. I posted about the case in October. We will cover the case as it progresses.
A rather curious survey by the Guttmacher Institute (a pro-availability of abortion non-profit organization) has cited Ireland and Poland (which in 1997 re-instated law outlawing abortion except when mother’s life at risk or she had been raped) as the only developed countries in the world where there is not adequate access to abortion, presumably because it is not legal in those countries. While there seems little purpose in re-igniting a debate that sends Irish people on both sides into fits of apoplectic fury (another referendum may be an inevitability if a future FG/Labour coalition achieves a sizeable majority and can thereby avoid destablisation) , it does signifying how far behind/ahead of the rest of our cohorts in the OECD are in this regard, and for that alone, it is worth noting. The Report itself is briefly mentioned in both the Irish Times and the BBC.
In July of last year, Ireland was examined by the UN Human Rights Committee under the ICCPR. The Committee identified Ireland’s abortion regime as an area of concern. It stated in its Concluding Observations that Ireland ‘should bring its abortion laws into line with the [ICCPR]. It should take measures to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies so that they do not have to resort to illegal or unsafe abortions that could put their lifes at risk or to abortions abroad’. As yet, the Government has taken no steps to do so. On Friday, October 16 the Irish Family Planning Association and the Women’s Studies Centre, UCD School of Social Justice will revisit this and other matters in a conference entitled ‘Building the Reproductive Justice Movement’ at the Morrison Hotel, Dublin 1. The keynote speakers will be Dr. Ruth Fletcher of Keele University and Loretta Ross of SisterSong, USA. The IFPA is 40 years old this year. But 2009 might be an important year for reproductive rights in Ireland for other reasons. On December 9, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear A, B and C v. Ireland; a challenge to Ireland’s ban on abortion. You can find out about Ireland’s abortion law – which permits women to travel abroad for abortion, but allows a domestic abortion only where there is a threat to the life of the mother - here. The statement of facts in the case is here.