Ireland Debates Increasing Abortion Access

News: Life and Family
by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  June 17, 2016   

Abortion advocates using U.N. ruling to target disabled babies and knock down abortion law

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DUBLIN ( - Irish lawmakers are re-examining abortion laws in light of a U.N. Human Rights Commission judging that its law subjects women to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Since the United Nations issued a comment last week maintaining Ireland's abortion law causes suffering and discrimination, abortion advocates have been pushing to allow abortion for "fetal abnormalities." Prime Minister Enda Kenny is advising that the U.N. ruling is "not binding" and is warning that an immediate repeal of the 8th Amendment banning abortion would end in failure.

In 1983, an amendment was added to the Irish Constitution declaring "the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

Abortion advocates have been seeking to repeal the law, and the U.N. ruling seems to be giving them a new reason to do so.

Ireland's legislative assembly will be discussing allowing abortion in cases of "fetal abnormality." A nearly identical law was discussed in 2015 but failed. With the United Nations' finding, the legislation is getting a new life and lawmakers seem willing to pass it this time around.

The U.N. document speaks of the case of Amanda Mellet who sought an abortion in 2011 when she found out her child had congenital defects that might prevent it from living long after birth. She described how "traumatized" she was when she had to fly to the United Kingdom to have her child aborted. She complained that she was forced to return to Ireland soon after the procedure and wasn't able to take the remains of her child with her, receiving them by mail instead several weeks later.

She wanted grief counseling but didn't qualify to have it paid by insurance because she had the abortion out of country. The U.N. document describes Mellet's treatment as "cruel and degrading."

Kenny, a self-professed Catholic, is promising the 8th Amendment will be the first item for discussion at next week's cabinet meeting, where it will go to a citizen-run committee for discussion before it is put up for a referendum vote.

He is cautioning that discussion will take time if the amendment is to be repealed. "It is pointless rushing into a constitutional referendum unless there is a realistic consensus on whatever change might be recommended here."

Ruth Coppinger, a member of the Socialist party, is against leaving a vote up to the people. "States with most difficulty dealing with abortion tended to be ones dominated by the Catholic Church," she complained.

The legislative assembly is scheduled to vote on the exception for fetal abnormality later on this month.

Abortion was first legalized in 2013 under the leadership of Enda Kenny, but is allowed in only limited circumstances. The low incidence of abortion correlates with Ireland's maternal mortality rate, the lowest in the world.


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