By Ann Marie Foley - 23 June, 2015
UN Committee recommends State hold a referendum on abortion and revise legislation including the Constitution and Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.
The Pro Life Campaign has described the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights findings about abortion in Ireland as “deeply hypocritical”.
“The Report highlights the importance of fighting discrimination, recommending that the State adopt ‘comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation’ before then going on to advocate the further liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws.”
“As the Committee members will be aware, abortion is the ultimate discrimination, targeting the right to life of the unborn, the most vulnerable in our society,” said Cora Sherlock, deputy chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign.
The UN Committee made its findings public following hearings in early June (see CatholicIreland.net 10 June 2015).
“In a similar vein, the Committee recommends a series of measures to benefit the disabled but it ignores the fact that in countries like the UK, abortion is available right up to birth where a baby is diagnosed with a disability. The Committee cannot continue to ignore these inconsistencies and expect its credibility to remain unchallenged.”
She added that there no “right to abortion” in international human rights law, however there is a “right to life” which is clearly set out in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
She cautioned that the UN should ensure that all of its Committee members adhere to the founding principles of this Declaration.
“Once again, the Committee has shown itself to be incredibly biased on abortion. It has shown no consideration for the rights of unborn babies throughout the full nine months of pregnancy,” Cora Sherlock warned.
The UN Committee published its findings or concluding observations on several countries including Ireland yesterday (Monday 22 June) arising from its latest session from 1-19 June in Geneva.
The committee made some 45 recommendations on everything from low pay and the adverse affects of austerity on the poor, to the rights of minorities and immigrants as well as the provision of health, education and other services.
Under the heading ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health’ the Committee stated that it is concerned at the State’s “highly restrictive legislation on abortion and strict interpretation”.
It stated that there is a ‘criminalisation of abortion’ in Ireland including in the cases of rape and incest and of risk to the health of a pregnant woman and there is a lack of “legal and procedural clarity on what constitutes a real substantive risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the pregnant woman”.
There is a discriminatory impact on women who cannot afford to get abortion abroad or access to the necessary information.
“The Committee recommended that the State take all necessary steps, including a referendum on abortion, to revise its legislation on abortion, including the Constitution and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, in line with international human rights standards; adopt guidelines to clarify what constitutes a real substantive risk to the life of a pregnant woman; publicise information on crisis pregnancy options through effective channels of communication; and ensure the accessibility and availability of information on sexual and reproductive health”.
It also addressed the Magdalene Laundries stating its regret at “the massive and systemic forced labour that occurred, with the patronage of the State, between 1922 and 1996 in Magdalene Laundries.”
It noted the State’s apology to Magdalene survivors and the establishment of an ex-gratia restorative justice scheme in 2013, but recommended that “the State party conduct a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into these allegations, bring those responsible to justice and provide all victims with effective remedies.”
On social issues the Committee recommended that the Government increase the number of social housing units to satisfy the high demand and reduce the long waiting lists.
It also recommended that the State consider introducing legislation on private rent and increasing the Rent Supplement levels. It also called for a look at introducing banking regulations to strengthen protection for mortgage borrowers in arrears.