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Women and girls are not criminals – Amnesty joins March for Choice

    September 25, 2015

    Amnesty International Ireland joined with the Abortion Rights Campaign fourth annual March for Choice in Dublin today, to highlight the fact that criminalising women for having abortions is an abuse of their human rights.

    Amnesty International’s global My Body My Rights campaign has Ireland as a focus, because we have one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in the world. Not only are women and girls denied their human right to access safe and legal abortions, at a minimum where they are pregnant as a result of rape or incest, their heath is at risk or there is a fatal or severe foetal impairment.  Irish law also criminalises any woman or girl - and her healthcare provider - if they have an abortion outside of the very limited scope of the 2013 Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act.

    Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:

    “Amnesty is delighted to join today’s march. We are heartened to see so many people here speaking out and demanding respect for women’s basic human rights from Ireland’s lawmakers. It is beyond time for all parties here in Ireland to make clear political commitments to change Ireland’s abortion law.

    “For too long, the reality of abortion for women and girls in Ireland has been hidden - shrouded in secrecy and shame. Successive governments have been content to exile women and girls to foreign shores to access a health service to which they have a human right.

    “The current government has also stood over the 30-year-old constitutional ban on abortion except where women or girls could die. In 2013 it enacted legislation re-criminalising women, girls and health professionals were they to have or perform abortions in all other cases. It is shocking that women could face 14 years in prison for daring to exercise their human rights. It is also deeply troubling that, as our recent poll found, less than one in ten people in Ireland are even aware that this penalty hangs over the heads of women.

    “That we do not see women languishing in prison cells like in El Salvador is no excuse – it illustrates the blatant hypocrisy at the heart of Ireland’s abortion ban. This is not just about sending people to jail - it is about creating a ‘moral law ‘ controlling women and girls’ access to their sexual and reproductive rights.

    Irish women and girls do have abortions. But they either do so by making an often traumatic journey abroad or they break the law at home, living in fear and in shame. They feel like criminals because the law says they should be, and the Irish Government looks the other way.

    “This is a human right abuse Ireland must no longer tolerate. Today we protest against   laws that exile, criminalise and traumatise women and girls living in Ireland. We protest at the rank hypocrisy of successive Irish governments who choose not to vindicate the human rights of women and girls, but instead to outsource Ireland’s human rights obligations. We stand with women who are bravely speaking out about their experiences, and with those who told us their stories during our research.

    “People are in Ireland are overwhelmingly in favour of expanding access to abortion, and against criminalising women and their healthcare professionals. It is time for our Government to listen. Today we demand repeal of the 8th amendment so we can finally bring abortion out of the shadows, so we can finally bring to an end a culture of silence and pretence. Irish women and girls who have abortions are our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our partners and wives, our friends. They are not criminals.”

    Background:

    On 28 September 2015 for International Day of Action for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, Amnesty International activists will be demonstrating outside the Embassies of Ireland in the following countries: Argentina, Austria, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

    Amnesty International commissioned Red C to carry out a national opinion poll in May 2015 to establish a deeper understanding of public attitudes to Ireland’s laws on abortion. RED C conducted more than 1,000 telephone interviews among a nationally representative sample of the adult population between 11-14 May 2015. The sample size was quota controlled by age, gender, socio-economic status and region. The poll also asked respondents for their personal views on when access to abortion should be provided in Ireland. The polling results were then cross-compared across these groups.

     

    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations 416-363-9933 ext 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca