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Hundreds of Health Care Providers Worldwide Call on Ireland's Parliament To Decriminalize Abortion

Hundreds of Health Care Providers Worldwide Call on Ireland's Parliament To Decriminalize Abortion

November 23, 2015 — Hundreds of providers from around the world have called on Ireland's Parliament to decriminalize abortion, The Guardian reports (McDonald, The Guardian, 11/20).

Background

In 2013, Ireland's Parliament legalized abortion in cases when the procedure is needed to save a woman's life, including when there is medical consensus that a woman would commit suicide if the pregnancy continued. However, the law does not allow abortions in other instances, including rape, incest, fetal anomaly or when the fetus has no chance of survival (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/9). According to The Guardian, providers who perform abortions outside the law's limitations are subject to a 14-year jail sentence (The Guardian, 11/20).

Last year, a woman who said she was suicidal was refused an abortion under the new law, reigniting controversy over the country's abortion restrictions. The case is believed to be the first abortion request under the law's suicide provision. When the woman was denied the abortion, she entered a brief hunger strike, but she agreed to a cesarean section about 25 weeks into the pregnancy after health officials started the legal process to forcibly hydrate her (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/19/14).

The Labor party, which is part of Ireland's coalition government, said it will campaign in 2016 to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and fetal anomalies. In addition, activists have called for a repeal of the Irish constitution's eighth amendment, which states that a pregnant women and a fetus have an equal right to life (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/9).

Details of Letter

A group of 838 providers from 44 countries, including Ireland, sent a letter to the Fine Gael-Labour coalition in Dublin, arguing that the country's abortion restrictions put women's lives at risk. According to The Guardian, the providers are part of an Amnesty International campaign to lift the law's threat of imprisonment for abortion providers.

The letter stated, "The criminali[z]ation of abortion prevents healthcare providers from delivering timely, medically indicated care in accordance with their patients' wishes," adding, "It impedes and disregards sound medical judgment and can undermine the professional duty of care and confidentiality that doctors bear towards their patients."

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said, "Making criminals of women for abortion violates their human rights and can endanger their lives. In numerous countries around the world, Amnesty International has documented shocking cases of women forced to continue unviable pregnancies because of restrictive laws. We have seen women and girls pregnant as a result of rape forced to carry ... to term and give birth."

He continued, "International law is clear: at the very least women and girls should have access to an abortion when the pregnancy poses a risk to their life or health, in cases of severe or fatal [fetal] impairment, and in cases of rape or incest. International law also says that under no circumstances should a woman be made a criminal for having an abortion" (The Guardian, 11/20).