Honorable Members of the Joint Committee on Health and Children:

Human Rights Watch welcomes the upcoming hearings on of the Joint Committee on Health and Children concerning government actions to comply with the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment in A, B, C v. Ireland, and to explore options elaborated by the recent expert group report on the decision. We also appreciate the opportunity to make this submission to the Committee.

Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and promoting human rights. We have worked extensively on sexual and reproductive and maternal health issues over the past decade, including in Ireland. Our investigations have documented how barriers to sexual and reproductive health care and information—including with respect to abortion—violate a range of human rights.

In 2010, Human Rights Watch investigated the human rights impacts of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws and policies, and issued a report, “A State of Isolation: Access to Abortion for Women in Ireland.” We found that Ireland’s current approach to abortion conflicts with its international human rights obligations in a number of respects. We were particularly concerned about the inaccessibility to lawful abortion as permitted under Irish law; barriers to accurate information on abortion; the disproportionately harmful impact of abortion restrictions on poor and marginalized women; and the lack of government monitoring and accountability with respect to abortion.

We recognize that abortion is an emotive issue in Ireland as elsewhere, and policy debates about reform options to comply with the A, B, C v. Ireland decision and to better protect the lives and health of women and girls will undoubtedly be difficult. But the status quo is incompatible with international human rights law.

Our submission to the Committee consists of (1) a 2-page executive summary focusing on the need to regulate access to lawful abortion in a manner that is compatible with human rights law and (2) a copy of our 2010 report. We hope these materials are useful, and help to advance efforts to bring Ireland into compliance with its human rights obligations and to ensure the health and safety of women in Ireland.

Sincerely,

Liesl Gerntholtz                                                                                
Executive Director                                                                           
Women’s Rights Division                                     

Aisling Reidy
Senior Legal Advisor
Legal and Policy Division