ARROW Statement – In Solidarity with Irish Women in Demanding the Right to Safe Abortion and Ensuring Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for All

May 25, 2018 sunday (2)

A statement by the Solidarity Alliance for the Right to Safe Abortion, a Global South alliance of six civil society organisations committed to realising the right to safe abortion for all women. 

On 25 May 2018, Irish voters will cast their vote in a referendum that decides on whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment (Article 40.3.3) of the Irish constitution, which makes abortion illegal by giving equal rights to the unborn.[i] Since 1983 when this amendment was voted in, it has created a highly restrictive environment for safe abortion in Ireland. It has resulted in many women seeking abortions resorting to alternative and costly means.[ii] The existing law allows abortions only when the life of the mother is in danger while accessing illegal abortions can result in imprisonment up to 14 years.[iii]

Between 1980 and 2016, at least over 170,000 women and girls from Ireland sought abortions in other countries. The UK was the destination of choice for a majority of these women, where over 3000 women have accessed abortions in the UK in 2016 alone, a number that is believed to be an underestimation.[iv]

In Ireland, cases such as the Savita Halappanavar, who died due to complications of a septic miscarriage show the urgency for change.[v] Savita, among others, was refused an abortion on request because she was already 17 weeks pregnant and her life was not deemed in threat by doctors.[vi]

Various human rights treaties and consensus documents, have recognised that couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly decide when, how and with whom to get pregnant, have the information and means to do so and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They have the right to do so free of discrimination, coercion and violence.[vii]

Pro-life arguments position the zygote, embryo or foetus equal to women thereby curtailing her sexual and reproductive health and rights and her ability to make autonomous decisions regarding her fertility.[viii] Denying women access to safe abortion information and services, generally through legal restriction, is another breach of human rights.[ix]

In countries where abortion is legal, available and provided under medical supervision, it is an extremely safe medical procedure with minimum morbidity and insubstantial risk of death.[x] Global abortion trends suggest that the number of women seeking abortion does not decrease with a restrictive legal system, such as in Ireland. In fact, these women resort to seeking an unsafe abortion or opting for illegal means, which are mostly unsafe.[xi] This not only endangers women health due to life-threatening complications arising from unsafe abortion but also has grave repercussions in terms of the financial burden to health systems that are associated with it.[xii] Moreover, compelling women to undergo life-threatening abortion procedures undermine women’s right to health and life and constitutes gender discrimination.[xiii]

The Solidarity for the Right to Safe Abortion calls for:

  • Repealing the Eight Amendment unconditionally.
  • A removal of restrictive laws and policies that prevent the right to safe abortion and minimise quality and safe abortion services as well as restrict women and girls’ access to safe abortion services.
  • A recognition of women’s right to safe abortion as a human right by all parties concerned.
  • Guarantees and protection of all women’s right to life, health, freedom from discrimination, bodily integrity and autonomy.
  • Guarantees of universal access to affordable health care, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services to ensure that women and girls have access and can afford the care they need.
  • Universal access to contraceptive services, including emergency contraception, of high quality and variety, is user friendly and appropriate to the needs of women, including young women.

Endorsed by members of the Solidarity Alliance for the Right to Safe Abortion

  • Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC), Nepal
  • CommonHealth and ally SAHAJ Vadodara, India
  • Naripokkho, Bangladesh
  • Association for Prevention of Septic Abortions Bangladesh (BAPSA), Bangladesh
  • Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC), Cambodia
  • Women’s Global Network on Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), the Philippines

 

[i] See https://www.joe.ie/news/what-is-the-eighth-amendment-and-should-we-repeal-it-557847

[ii] The Thirteenth Amendment allows women to travel to other countries to access abortion services and the Fourteenth Amendment allows people accessing information relating to services lawfully available in another state. See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43961988

[iii] In 2013, the law was changed when the Dáil (Irish parliament) voted to allow abortions under limited circumstances. See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43961988

[iv] Irish Family Planning Association. See https://www.ifpa.ie/Hot-Topics/Abortion/Statistics

[v] See https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/nimtreport50278.pdf

[vi] See https://www.joe.ie/news/what-is-the-eighth-amendment-and-should-we-repeal-it-557847

[vii] ICPD Programme of Action 1994, para 7.3 in Thanenthiran, S., Racherla S.J., & Jahanath, S. (2013). Reclaiming and Redefining Rights. ICPD+20 Status of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Asia Pacific.  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: ARROW. http://www.arrow.org.my/publications/ICPD+20/ICPD+20_ARROW_AP.pdf

[viii] See https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/RTL_3%2014%2012.pdf

[ix] See https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/pub_fac_safeab_10.11.pdf

[x] See https://www.ippf.org/sites/default/files/ippf_youth_and_abortion_guidelines_2014.pdf

[xi] See https://www.ippf.org/sites/default/files/ippf_youth_and_abortion_guidelines_2014.pdf

[xii] See http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/general/lancet_4.pdf

[xiii] See https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/pub_fac_safeab_10.11.pdf

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