Women challenge Irish abortion ban

// 13 December 2009

Three Irish women who were forced to travel to the UK to get an abortion due to Ireland’s total ban on the procedure challenged the ban in the European court of human rights earlier this week . While ‘the right to life of the unborn’ is enshrined in the country’s constitution, the women’s lawyers argued that Irish women’s rights to life, privacy and family life and to be spared discrimination and ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ are compromised by the ban:

The three women, known only as A, B and C, travelled to Britain to have abortions and claim their health was imperilled and that they were traumatised and humiliated by the Irish anti-abortion laws. “All three women complain that the impossibility for them to have an abortion in Ireland made the procedure unnecessarily expensive, complicated and traumatic. In particular, that restriction stigmatised and humiliated them and risked damaging their health and, in the third applicant’s case, even her life,” said a court statement.


Representing the women, Julie Kay told the 17 judges of the grand chamber that all three women had to borrow money to travel abroad for “clandestine” abortions and dismissed as bogus government claims that abortions were allowed in cases where the women’s lives were at risk. She said that pursuing the case in court in Ireland, as demanded by Gallagher, would have been “futile and costly”.

The court will not reach a decision until later next year. For the sake of the 5,000 Irish women who are forced to travel to the UK every year – not to mention those who cannot afford to do so, the women who are left with little to no control over their health and lives – let’s hope it’s the right one.

Comments From You

Josie // Posted 14 December 2009 at 1:01 pm

Brave ladies, and I wish them every success. I grew up in Ireland, but have lived happily in Britain for the past 8 years and will never return to Ireland on a permanent basis. I find it so disgusting in this day and age that the Catholic church has such a hold over the country. Politicians there are utterly shameless about sticking their heads in the sand and pretending that there is no need for abortion and that women are not travelling IN THEIR THOUSANDS to the UK, at great stress and cost, and that’s just those who can afford it.

To add insult to injury, there is no such thing as free contraception in Ireland unless you have a medical card (for people on benefits or extremely low income) – you also have to pay up to 50 euro for a GP visit in order to get the prescription in the first place. Ireland is not an easy place to be a woman, I’m glad I got out but I also take my hat off to women like this who are fighting to make the country a safe and healthy place for others to live in

maggie o // Posted 14 December 2009 at 2:34 pm

im irish and have been living in the uk for the past 7 -8 years too. Im so surprised abortion is still not allowed in the country, i find irish people so intelligent as a race and just find this really odd.

maggie o // Posted 14 December 2009 at 2:41 pm

Maybe Im such a feminist because of being a woman in ireland for so long. As a teenager I tried to work for so many womens institutions as I was genuinely so interested in womens issues and wanted to gain expereince for later in life. I was turned away every time and kinda told to run along home as if I was a freak or something. Thinking back what a waste of genuine interest and support.

Ex-Pat // Posted 14 December 2009 at 3:28 pm

Replying to Josie – I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such a negative experience of Ireland that you wouldn’t consider returning to live.

Same as you, I grew up in Ireland and have been living in the UK for the past 5 years (for career opportunity rather than social choice). However, when I was living in Ireland, I was surrounded by strong, independent women who couldn’t believe that the constitution hasn’t been changed since it was penned by Catholic conservatives 70 years ago. What’s more, my friends and I are all working in a male-dominated field (software engineering) but still never felt that Ireland was a difficult place to be a woman. Having also worked in the US, for instance, I found the American work and social environment to be much more anti-feminist and prone to gender stereotyping.

I’m not trying to denigrate your negative experience, but just try to give you hope that your previous experience may have been exceptionally unlucky. Ireland is full of smart, vocal, liberal women fighting for a modern and inclusive society. If you ever wonder about living in Ireland again, take a look at Ivana Bacik (senator, law professor, and all-round kickass campaigner) as a source of political inspiration.

maggie // Posted 14 December 2009 at 11:33 pm

I lived in the Rep of Ireland for 8 years, coming from Northern Ireland but have lived in England now for 20 years. I wouldn’t live in either the north or the south for the reasons given above. I did work on the referendum on Divorce and although my efforts and those of thousands of others did not see it passed first go, with effort and determination it was eventually passed.

Abortion will eventually be allowed in the Republic, of that I’m sure. The people living there who wish to live in a society with equal rights to all will not give up. I wish these women well in their challenge. I hope they succeed.

Josie // Posted 15 December 2009 at 11:02 am

Thanks a lot for your supportive comments Ex-Pat – I don’t doubt for a minute that there are many strong feminist women in Ireland and thank you for the example of Ivana Bacik, had never heard of her but have now had a good look at her website and she sounds fab!

Unfortunately my problems with Ireland are many – some personal, some political – and the situation with abortion is just the tip of the iceberg for me! That said I will be watching this case with interest and crossing everything that these women are successful in their very noble challenge to the law

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