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Irish abortion law too restrictive: UN Committee

By Susan Gately - 25 July, 2014

foetusThe Pro Life Campaign has described the recent UN hearings on abortion in Geneva as a charade.

It accused the UN of holding a partisan attitude in support of abortion which PLC said completely undermines the credibility of the report released yesterday.

The report from the UN committee on human rights was a summary of its view of Ireland from a human rights perspective.

The 26 paragraph report covers a variety of topics including gender equality, violence against women, the institutional abuse of women and children, imprisonment for failure to pay fines, freedom of religion and abortion.

In the section covering abortion (para 9), it said Ireland should revise its highly restrictive abortion laws which should be extended to provide for additional exceptions in cases of rape, incest, serious risks to the health of the mother or fatal foetal abnormality.

The Pro Life Campaign was one of the official NGOs represented at the HRC’s two-day hearings in Geneva. Commenting on the report, Cora Sherlock said the hearings were a “complete charade” from start to finish.

“The UN Human Rights Committee has shown itself to be incredibly biased on abortion and has not the slightest concern for the rights of unborn babies throughout the full nine months of pregnancy.”

Cora Sherlock, PLC

Cora Sherlock, PLC

She was critical of the Government for its “lacklustre defence of Ireland’s right to decide on these matters”.

“That’s simply not good enough. The HRC should be robustly challenged over its partisan stance on abortion and the Government should remind it that there is absolutely no requirement under international law to comply with its demands.”

Ms Sherlock said that the UN Human Rights Committee never raised “even a murmur of concern” about the situation in places like England “where babies born alive after botched abortions receive no medical attention and are routinely left to die in corners”.

Neither had it commented on a recent documented case there where the remains of over 15,000 aborted babies were incinerated to heat hospitals in Britain or the fact that in Britain babies can be legally aborted up until birth on disability grounds.”

Other matters dealt with in the report included the Institutional Abuse of Women and Children (para 10).

There the committee recommended that the State should conduct “prompt, independent and thorough investigation into all abuse in Magdalene Laundries, childrens’ institutions and mother and baby homes”, and prosecute and punish perpetrators, and ensure that “all victims obtain an effective remedy, including compensation”.

Under freedom of religion, the UN committee (at para 21), lamented the “slow pace of progress” in amending the Constitution so that individuals wishing to take up senior roles (Presidents, Judges) do not have to take religious oaths.

UN3It also expressed its concern about the “slow progress in increasing access to secular education through the establishment of non-denominational schools, divestment of the patronage of schools and the phasing out of integrated religious curricula in schools.”

The committee also laments the fact that under an Irish act, religious-owned institutions  “including in the fields of education and health, can discriminate against employees or prospective employees to protect the religious ethos of the institution”.

The UN Committee recommends legislation to “prohibit discrimination in access to schools on the grounds of religion, belief or other status, and ensure that there are diverse school types and curriculum options available throughout the State party to meet the needs of minority faith or non-faith children.”

“It [the State] should also amend Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Acts in a way that bars all forms of discrimination in employment in the fields of education and health,” the UN Committee states.

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