Thursday, February 04, 2010

Maman Poulet Blog: Human Rights Watch Launch Report on Abortion and Ireland

Posted by Maman Poulet on 28 Jan 2010 at 11:00 am | Tagged as: Abortion

'The Irish government should take all necessary steps, both immediate and incremental, to ensure that women have informed and un-coerced access to safe and legal abortion services within Ireland as an element of women’s exercise of their reproductive and other human rights. In the interim, the government should immediately ensure that those abortion services that are currently legal under Irish law be provided to all who need them without discrimination, and that full and accurate information on how to obtain safe abortions both within Ireland and outside its borders be available to all women, without discrimination.'

Human Rights Watch (HRW) have today released their report A State of Isolation: Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland on the human rights implications of Irish legislation and policies regarding residents access to abortion. The report highlights international law and treaties and how they detail that people should be free from Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and how Ireland’s treatment of pregnant women seeking abortions contravenes this and other rights.

It details the situation facing women seeking access to legal abortion with no clear policy in place enabling these to take place. HRW chronicle the reluctance of the Department of Health, the medical council and many members of the medical profession in becoming involved in forming policy in the area though attitudes towards the women involved are changing.

Women seeking information on abortion are still at risk of receiving information from agencies (state funded) who do not support a woman’s right to choose or receive impartial information or indeed rogue agencies who are allowed to exist unregulated targeting women. (See earlier post on the actions of the state in trying to make women feel guilty about attending rogue agencies)

Women travelling outside the state wishing to access a termination continue to face many barriers in organising travel.

Quote from Report:
'The women interviewed by Human Rights Watch described a climate of fear and shame, at least in part attributable to the criminalization of abortion. They explained their concerns about disclosing that they had had an abortion and the burden of secrecy that they are forced to carry. They also described their confusion about whether they could legally leave Ireland to access an abortion in the UK or other parts of Europe, and their concerns about whether to access post-abortion care, legally available in Ireland.

They also described financial constraints. Every woman interviewed for this report told Human Rights Watch how difficult it was to raise the money needed to pay for travel and the costs of the abortion. Even those who were employed indicated that the costs related to traveling created a significant barrier and delayed their access.'

Asylum seekers face financial and freedom of movment barriers in accessing abortions abroad.

Quote from Report:
'Asylum seekers are in a particularly vulnerable position. Often isolated, without family and other social support, they fear the consequences of seeking permission to leave the country to have an abortion. They also face additional costs as they have no travel documents, and must therefore apply and pay for emergency temporary travel documents, which are issued by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. They will also have to apply and pay for visas to enter the UK, or Schengen visas to enter into a European Union (EU) country. Currently the cost of a UK visa is £65 (€72).[105] Application fees for a Schengen visa to the Netherlands cost £60 (€67).[106]

A service provider, who spoke to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity, described the situation of a young female asylum seeker she had worked with:

She could not legally leave the country. Her difficulties were that she didn’t know where to go … money and her legal status. We made the call to Holland … she needed to get a re-entry visa to return and to apply for a Schengen visa…. She needed a temporary travel document from the Department of Justice—we had a contact there—not sure how someone without a contact would do this…. It took a whole month to organize this. She was just over 12 weeks pregnant when she went to Holland. There were fees attached to the issuing of all the documents and there was no funding available for this.[107]'

These issues and recommendations may not be news to many of us, though we often forget about them or have decided that nothing can be done. But it is the first time in some years that all the issues affecting the human rights of women in trying to access information and services inside and outside the state have been researched and documented in one place.

The Department of Justice by the way don’t think that there is a problem regarding the issue in Ireland and refused to be interviewed by Human Rights Watch and said they had no intentions of doing anything on the matter.

I expect many of the agencies cited to come out denying that there is anything amiss in the country while women silently organise to travel or indeed as one person mentions in the report go through ‘desperate pregnancies’.

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