Wednesday, December 03, 2008

CEDAW and Ireland: Concluding Observations on Abortion, 1989/1999/2005

CEDAW and Concluding Observations on Abortion, Ireland, 1989/1999/2005.

IRELAND CEDAW A/44/38 (1989)
Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women:

The Committee considered the initial report of Ireland (CEDAW/C/5/Add.47) at its 135th and 140th meetings, on 22 and 24 February 1989 (CEDAW/C/SR.135 and 140).

89. In the area of health, more information was requested on the degree of access to contraceptives for women under the age of 18 in the light of the rising incidence of teenage pregnancies, generally. It was asked why a prescription was required for contraceptives. Statistics, if available, were requested on the number of Irish women who had had clandestine abortions (in Ireland or abroad). It was also asked whether the fact that abortion was illegal was not considered by the Government to be contrary to the objectives of equality of opportunity and self-determination enshrined in the Convention. Exact data were requested on deaths resulting from illegal abortions and it was asked whether any action had been taken to stem the increase in deaths. Further, the Committee wanted to know if there was a strong movement from feminist groups with regard to legalizing abortion and if anything was being done to change the law. The Committee also wished to know whether abortion in the case of rape was illegal and whether there were any legal consequences for persons in that situation.

State Party(Ireland) reply:
123. The representative responded to the questions in the area of health. On the subject of abortion, he explained that Irish law did not distinguish between clandestine and other abortions. Abortion had been illegal since 1860 and the provision had been upheld by a referendum held in Ireland in 1983. A number of women’s groups had played a prominent role in lobbying for abortion rights during the debate preceding the referendum but the feminist movement was not united on the issue.
Police authorities had not reported any incidences of clandestine abortion in Ireland and it was believed not to occur as Irish women could avail themselves of legal and safe abortion facilities in the United Kingdom. On the question of the demand for abortion, the number of women who had given an address in the Ireland and who had availed themselves of an abortion in the United Kingdom in 1987 was reported to be 3,700, but it was considered that that figure might be low due to under-reporting. In answer to the question of whether the absence of abortion rights meant that many women would have to function as single parents with the attendant economic difficulties, the representative informed the Committee of the special weekly unmarried mother’s allowance, which was available subject to a means test.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women : Ireland. 25/06/99.
A/54/38,paras.161-201. (Concluding Observations/Comments)

Convention Abbreviation: CEDAW
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Twenty-first session 7–25 June 1999

Principal areas of concern and recommendations:

180. The Committee notes that although Ireland is a secular State, the influence of the Church is strongly felt not only in attitudes and stereotypes but also in official State policy.
In particular, women's right to health, including reproductive health, is compromised by this influence. The Committee notes that Ireland did not enter a reservation to article 12 upon ratification of the Convention. The Committee recommends implementation of this article in full.

185. While noting with appreciation the existence of a Plan for Women's Health, 1997-1999, and the establishment of a Women's Health Council, as well as the wide availability of various programmes to improve women's health, the Committee is concerned that, with very limited exceptions, abortion remains illegal in Ireland. Women who wish to terminate their pregnancies need to travel abroad. This creates hardship for vulnerable groups, such as female asylum seekers who cannot leave the territory of the State.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
Thirty-third session 5-22 July 2005

Concluding comments: Ireland
1. The Committee considered Ireland’s combined fourth and fifth periodic report (CEDAW/C/IRL/4-5) at its 693rd and 694th meetings, on 13 July 2005.

Introduction by the State party(Ireland)
7. Steps had been taken to integrate a gender dimension into the health service and to make it responsive to the particular needs of women. Additional funding had been provided for family planning and pregnancy counselling services. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency had been set up in 2001. Extensive national dialogue had occurred on the issue of abortion, with five separate referendums held on three separate occasions. The representative noted that the Government had no plans to put forward further proposals at the present time.

Principal areas of concern and recommendations of CEDAW Committee:

38. While acknowledging positive developments in the implementation of article 12 of the Convention, in particular the Strategy to Address the Issue of Crisis Pregnancy (2003) that addresses information, education and advice on contraceptive services, the Committee reiterates its concern about the consequences of the very restrictive abortion laws under which abortion is prohibited except where it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother that can be averted only by the termination of her pregnancy.

39. The Committee urges the State party to continue to facilitate a national dialogue on women’s right to reproductive health, including on the very restrictive abortion laws. It also urges the State party to further strengthen family planning services, ensuring their availability to all women and men, young adults and teenagers.

Ireland is due to be examined under CEDAW in 2009. An NGO Shadow Report is being prepared and is coordinated by the Irish Women’s Human Rights Alliance.

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