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Abortion access in Ireland still fails to meet human rights standards, hears UN body

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The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), Abortion Support Network (ASN), and Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) urge the United Nations to hold Ireland to account at the Universal Periodic Review for violating the human rights of abortion seekers. The three organisations submitted a report to the UN outlining how the Irish State fails to protect human rights, ahead of Ireland’s review this week.

While the situation has improved substantially since the last review in 2016, the Irish State continues to breach people’s rights to health, privacy, equality, and non-discrimination by failing to ensure that abortion is accessible, and by forcing people to leave the country to obtain care after abortion medications fail and after diagnoses of severe foetal anomalies, in contravention of the UN Human Rights Committee decisions in the Mellet and Whelan cases.

“It is grossly unacceptable that our human rights are still being breached three years after Repeal. Ireland must act to vindicate the human rights of abortion seekers.” said JoAnne Neary of ARC. “Many of these human rights violations are embedded in the legislation, which is riddled with delays and barriers to safe access. These must be addressed in the review – we deserve human rights compliant legislation.”

“We hear from more people now than we did before Repeal,” said Claire Cullen-Delsol of TFMR and LMC Bereavement. “The law hasn’t helped as many people as we had anticipated. Most of those contacting us are still falling outside the incredibly restrictive legislation. Even some whose diagnoses should qualify for a termination in Ireland are still being forced to travel. The inconsistency between hospitals, and even between doctors, is huge and adds to the distress. The Irish State needs to care for people at home. It cannot keep exiling people and couples who decide to obtain abortion care rather than wait for a non-viable pregnancy to end on its own or bring a child into the world whose brief life would be marked by constant suffering. Every time someone contacts us, they say, ‘We can’t believe this is happening; we thought we voted for Ireland to change’.”

“The clients we have helped since 2019 are more likely to face hurdles to accessing care and are often further along in pregnancy,” said Mara Clarke, founder of Abortion Support Network. “ASN has had at least 26 calls for help from people who had one or more failed medical abortions in Ireland but were sent away once they passed the 12-week cut-off, which is in our opinion state-mandated medical negligence. We’ve also helped a number of people who needed visas to travel for care. While fewer residents of Ireland are calling us, those who do are facing multiple obstacles – and that’s before you add the complexity and expense of travelling during a pandemic.”

“The Irish State has a history of ignoring human rights abuses until they are shamed into action,” added Ms Neary. “With less than 8 weeks left in 2021, there is still no sign of the promised legislative review. We will continue to raise these critical human rights issues of accessibility until there is free, safe, legal, local access to abortion for everyone who needs or wants it on the island of Ireland.”


The joint submission by ARC, ASN and TFMR is available here: 

Ireland will be examined by the Human Rights Council on Wednesday 10 November – 14:30 – 18:00​​​. Further information can be found here: