• Press Release

Ireland: Government must accept UN call for constitutional referendum on abortion

June 22, 2015

The Government must accept that the 1983 Eighth Amendment of Ireland's Constitution is causing serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said today following the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ criticism of the state’s law on abortion.
In its review of Ireland’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, the UN Committee was critical of Ireland's "highly restrictive abortion law and strict interpretation thereof" and set out a pathway for reform.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said:
“The UN is clear on what international law says about Ireland – its laws on abortion are violating the human rights of women and girls.
“The recommendations issued by the Committee outlines the legal reforms on access to abortion services and information that are necessary for Ireland to comply with its human rights obligations. The Committee is categorical that Ireland should also schedule a referendum on the Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s Constitution.
"The UN Human Rights Committee which monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also called on Ireland to revise its constitution last July. It is plain and simple: the two expert committees tasked with interpreting these two major UN human rights treaties have spoken with one voice on this. Ireland must act now.
“We hope and expect the Government will accept this call. As Ireland gears up for a general election, all political parties should include solid commitments to holding a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment in their pre-election manifestos.
“The Government must take seriously the Committee’s concern about the restrictive nature of the 2013 Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act. The Committee’s call for guidelines on the implementation of that Act echo Amnesty International’s concerns about the lack of legal and procedural clarity on what have life and death implications for pregnant women and girls.
“Two weeks ago, Amnesty International published a report on Ireland’s abortion laws explaining the suffering caused to Irish women because they cannot vindicate their rights in this jurisdiction. Reform of Ireland's abortion laws are long overdue. Every day 10 to 12 women travel from Ireland to access abortion, Ireland cannot continue to outsource its human rights obligations.
“The Irish Government must not wait for another tragedy to emerge before acting to reform Ireland's appallingly restrictive laws on abortion.”