After the fantastic #MarRef result in Ireland, it’s time for another referendum…
“You feel like a criminal. I am a law-abiding citizen and I felt like I was committing a crime, like I was smuggling drugs across the border.”
Cerys, who travelled to England for an abortion after doctors in Ireland confirmed that her baby would not survive
Every day at least 10 women come to Britain from Ireland for an abortion. Over 4,500 women and girls from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland coming mostly to England, every year, according to the UK government’s newest data. Although abortion is almost entirely banned in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, abortions still happen – they just happen somewhere else.
The reasons for women and girls terminating their pregnancies vary, but their reason for travelling is the same – they face 14 years in prison if they get the abortion at home. Ireland has one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. Women and girls cannot even seek a termination on the grounds of rape, incest, or where the foetus won’t survive.
After the fantastic result in the Equal Marriage referendum, people in Ireland are rightfully celebrating, but also reflecting on what this means for the changing face of Ireland. As the first ever country to bring in equal marriage by popular vote, Ireland sent a message to the world about the type of country they are and want to be.
Now we have another important statement that Ireland could be making to its own population and the rest of the world - that it respects the rights of women and girls.
Today, Amnesty is adding its voice to the campaigning in Ireland for the decriminalisation of abortion. And for the first time in the last three decades, there is a real feeling that we have an opportunity for change.
There has been a steadily growing campaign in Ireland to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution (you may have seen #repealthe8th on Twitter). Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution, or the 8th Amendment, puts the life of a foetus on an equal footing to that of a pregnant woman or girl.
In effect, it bans all abortion except where the life of the pregnant woman is at real and substantial risk. But in practice, often even then, women cannot access the help they need.
There’s a good round-up on the 8th Amendment and its history on thejournal.ie if you want to dig into the detail. While it remains in the constitution, women and girls will continue to be refused access to abortion in their own country in the cases of rape, incest, when the physical and mental health is at risk or in the cases of severe foetal abnormality (will not survive in the womb or will die soon after birth). Until its repeal, Ireland will continue to act far below international human rights law and standards.
There are regular opinion polls in Ireland on attitudes towards abortion and consistently they signal that the public want a change in the law. It’s time for Irish politicians to show leadership on this issue and put in motion the process for a new referendum to #repealthe8th.
We have another opportunity for Ireland to demonstrate its progessiveness to the world! Activists from around the world are standing with you. Let’s keep the momentum going!
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.