A Human rights attorney who overturned Columbia's constitutional ban on abortion has urged Irish judges to remove their 'Catholic glasses'.
Monica Roa (30), who has been the victim of death threats, burglaries and has even been accused of plotting genocide, said Irish judges should eliminate personal and religious bias when confronted with complex cases involving the rights of the unborn and women's reproductive rights, including abortion.
Ms Roa- whose historic legal action has compelled all public health hospitals in Colombia, where 90% of the population are Catholic, to perform abortions in limited circumstances- said education of judges was critical to any legal attempts to liberalise Ireland's restrictive abortion regime.
'It is really hard for judges to understand that they have to apply the law without reference to their own personal beliefs' she said addressing a Safe & Legal Pro-Choice forum in Dublin last night.
Ms Roa, who has interviewed judges around the world as part of an international study of legal strategies used to advance women's reproductive rights, said judges must 'take off those Catholic glasses' and rule without bias.
'Judicial bias is a major conflict throughout the world' said Ms Roa, who is the director of the Gender Justice Programme at Womens Link Worldwide, a non-governmental organisation that advances women's rights through the implementation of international human rights law.
The attorney, who travels at all times with a bodyguard, siad: 'In Ireland, as in Colombia, most judges are Catholic or have been educated in Catholic schools. It is really difficult for them to take off those Catholic glasses and look at the law and international laws without that bias. The first step to overcoming bias is to be aware of it'.
Last May, Colombia's constitutional court partially lifted the abortion ban, allowing pregnancy terminations in cases of severe foetal deformity; when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is at risk.
Ms Roa's visit to Ireland coincides with an Irish Government announcement that new laws will be introduced to deal with the issues raised in this week's frozen embryo ruling.