The human rights of pregnant women and girls are being violated on a daily basis by Ireland’s abortion laws, Amnesty International has claimed.
The country’s law on abortion, which allows terminations only if the life of the mother-to-be is at risk, is one of the most restrictive in the world, according to a new report from the campaign group.
The 112 page report She Is Not A Criminal: The Impact Of Ireland’s Abortion Law outlined a series of case studies which, Amnesty says, demonstrates how women and girls are denied healthcare in order to protect the life of the foetus.
The human rights group called for a change to the law as set out in the constitution.
It said the current law forced at least 4,000 women and girls to travel outside the country for an abortion every year at considerable mental, financial and physical cost.
Amnesty said women and girls who cannot travel are left without access to necessary health treatment, or risk criminal penalties if they undergo illegal abortions at home.
Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty contrasted the recent vote to legalise gay marriage in Ireland with the law on abortion.
“The recent Marriage Equality referendum showed a country that prides itself on being an open and inclusive society, but all is not well in the Republic of Ireland,” said Mr Shetty.
“The human rights of women and girls are violated on a daily basis because of a constitution that treats them like child-bearing vessels.
“Women and girls who need abortions are treated like criminals, stigmatised and forced to travel abroad, taking a serious toll on their mental and physical health. The Irish state can no longer ignore this reality, and the appalling impact it is having on thousands of people every year.”
Amnesty said along with Andorra, Malta and San Marino, Ireland was one of the few countries in Europe that banned women from getting abortions even in cases of rape, severe or fatal foetal impairment or a risk to their health – an option the group insisted was a right under international law.
The group said the law should be changed so that women and girls can have abortions in those cases at the very least.
But pro-life group the Life Institute accused Amnesty of having an “obsession” with abortion.
It claimed Amnesty was damaging its own “founding mission”.
Spokeswoman Niamh Ui Bhriain said: “Amnesty was founded to highlight human rights abuses, especially in regard to political prisoners and those suffering under unjust regimes. But now it seems to spend most of its time attacking the rights of the most vulnerable person of all – the unborn child.
“I’ve lost count of the number of people who have contacted us to tell us they will never support Amnesty again because of their stance on abortion.
Ms Ui Bhriain also disputed Amnesty’s claim around international law.
“There is no treaty or convention acknowledging a supposed ’right’ to abortion, yet the right to life of every person is widely recognised in international law,” she said.