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Catholics for Choice Calls on Irish Government to Lift Restrictions on Abortion

December 9, 2009

Washington, DC — Today, three Irish women challenged Ireland’s ban on abortion in the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the ban violates the rights to health and wellbeing outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights. Each of these women, after making the decision to have an abortion, was forced to travel to England to access an abortion.

Ireland, a country in which a large majority of citizens self-identify as Catholic, has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Abortion is prohibited in nearly every case, except when there is real risk to the life of a woman. Due to these restrictions, each year thousands of women travel abroad to access abortion services. It is estimated that between 1980 and 2008, over 135,000 women travelled from Ireland to Britain for the procedure.

While the Irish government, with the full support of the Catholic hierarchy, continues to prohibit abortion, this does not reflect the will of the Irish people. A 2007 Irish Times Behaviour and Attitudes Poll found that 54 percent of women believe the abortion laws in Ireland should be liberalized.

The stories of the three women illustrate the gravity of restrictive abortion laws. Catholics for Choice European Coordinator Henk Baars said:

“These abortion restrictions trample the rights of women who seek to end a pregnancy. The impact of these laws is especially evident in times of economic crisis. Forcing women to travel to access healthcare services that are legal in most European countries is unconscionable. Poor women suffer the most.

“The Irish solution of exporting what is perceived to be a problem is no solution at all. The sooner the Irish government realizes that this is a grave disservice to the women and men of Ireland, the better. We call upon the Irish government to ensure that its citizens can access abortion services in Irish hospitals, so that women are no longer forced to travel abroad for this vital procedure.”