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Statement of Catholics for a Free Choice President Jon O’Brien on the Irish High Court’s Ruling Allowing Young Woman to Travel Abroad to Obtain an Abortion

May 9, 2007

Washington, DC — Today, the Irish high court stated that a 17-year-old woman was able to leave the country to terminate her pregnancy. The young woman, known as “Miss D,” is 18 weeks pregnant with a fetus with a severe brain defect.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for a Free Choice , said,

“Right-thinking people around the world will welcome the decision today that allows a young woman to finally exercise her right to choose and have control over her own body. However, the case highlights-not for the first time-that something is very wrong in Ireland when it comes to women’s rights. What should have been a straightforward private process between Miss D and her doctors has instead evolved into a media circus involving the press, the courts and various government agencies. The genesis of this saga clearly lies with the refusal of several governments to legislate on a series of amendments to the Irish constitution, starting in 1983. Rather than resolve the situation, they have instead created a hypocritical world in which Irish women are forced to go abroad to deal with a health issue that rightly should be addressed in their home country with proper support, compassion and understanding. Importantly, the constitutional amendments have not done an iota to reduce the need for abortion or address the real life situations that women face.

“The indignity that Miss D was forced to go through could have been avoided if Irish politicians had the courage to legislate as they are supposed to do. So long as Irish politicians–of all parties–continue to bury their heads in the sand and fail to take action, Irish women will continue to suffer these tragedies. The issue of abortion is not going away and needs to be addressed in a mature way that takes into account the needs and differing beliefs of all people living in Ireland. It would be novel to see some real political leadership on addressing these needs.”

Note to editors: Jon O’Brien, a life-long Catholic born in the Republic of Ireland, worked for many years as a key staff member of the Irish Family Planning Association, breaking new ground in developing several new initiatives to advance reproductive rights. He was a co-founder and media director for the Frontline Pro-choice Coalition of reproductive rights groups who successfully campaigned for the release of “X,” a young girl who was being held by the Irish state under an antiabortion clause in the constitution. Mr. O’Brien was also instrumental in developing the strategy that successfully engineered the downfall of Ireland’s restrictive condom laws and testified to the most recent Irish government committee that examined abortion in 2000.

For more information, please contact Erin Smith, Press Officer of Catholics for a Free Choice, at +1 (202) 986-6093.