A new report by Human Rights Watch claims that Ireland’s anti-abortion regulations are in violation of international law. According to the report, “A State of Isolation: Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland,” released on January 28, “Ireland is a party to several international human rights treaties, and has been repeatedly criticized by international treaty bodies for implementing abortion restrictions that are in violation of the human rights obligations the government has voluntarily undertaken.”
Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental organization supposedly dedicated to the protection of human rights, but which pushes a social agenda that includes abortion and gay rights, accused Ireland of violating women’s human rights, including the rights to “health, information, privacy, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, life, equal protection under the law and non-discrimination,” by maintaining its abortion ban.
The authors of the report claim the lifetime prison sentence for receiving an illegal abortion is an infringement of the rights to liberty, security and health. The report furthermore criticizes the Irish government for limiting “access to information about safe and legal abortion services through restrictive legislation.” It also condemns the financial and legal barriers to procuring an abortion abroad.
The report recommends the decriminalization of all abortions and better access to information about committing abortions. It requests that doctors be mandated to refer patients to abortionists and that all public health institutions have workers who will perform abortions.
In Ireland, abortion is illegal unless the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life. It was prohibited in 1861 under the Offences Against the Person Act. In 1983, the Irish Constitution was amended by referendum to state that unborn children have the right to life from conception.
According to Dr. Ruth Cullen, spokesperson for the Pro-Life Campaign, an Irish pro-life group, Human Rights Watch’s critique neglects the fact that Ireland is one of the leading countries in the world in providing medical aid to pregnant women. It also ignores the harmful psychological effects caused by abortion. “Human Rights Watch cannot credibly claim to be a human rights organization while at the same time denying the rights of unborn children throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy,” Cullen said in an interview. “Any authentic vision of human rights has to include the right to life. Otherwise, it is meaningless.”
Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a pro-life research institute that monitors the UN’s social policy debates, told LifeSiteNews.com that, contrary to the claims made by the authors of the report, “Not a single international human rights treaty calls for a right to abortion.” Although the report states that the interpretation of international law by UN treaty bodies mandates access to abortion, Ruse said that “human rights treaty bodies at the UN do not have the authority to rewrite treaties or to tell governments what to do on this crucial issue.”