UN committee tells Irish gvmt to hold referendum to overturn abortion ban

'Why have you not had a referendum? Why have you not answered this?'
Tue Jun 23, 2015 - 7:40 pm EST
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Martin Good /

GENEVA, June 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) has peremptorily told the Republic of Ireland to hold a referendum on abortion to suit the committee’s pro-abortion mandate. But having just weathered a heated debate on the issue two years ago, the government doesn’t seem prepared to knuckle under.

Ireland is reportedly the only country in the world with a constitutional ban on abortion, which a year-old law allows to be bypassed when a woman’s life is actually endangered by pregnancy. All other abortions bring up to 14 years in jail, which the UN committee clearly believes is a violation of the rights of Irish women and girls to full access to their economic, social and cultural rights.

The Irish delegation was examined for several days on everything from obesity rates to treatment of Gypsies in schools by a committee armed with reports from dozens of unhappy Irish lobby groups. But it was abortion that drew the headlines.

The Irish delegation told the committee three things about abortion: that the constitution protected the unborn; that a new law, brought into force last year, allowed abortions only when their lives were threatened; and that the government had no plan to hold a referendum on changing the law any time soon. 

Declared Justice Ariranga Pillay, the committee’s special rapporteur for Ireland: “According to your answers about why the abortion law cannot comply with the international covenant standards, you said this is because of the constitutional protection for the unborn foetus. If this is the case why have you not had a referendum? Why have you not answered this?”

But Cora Sherlock, deputy chair of the Irish Pro-Life Campaign, disagreed. “The UN should not criticise Ireland for trying to protect women and the lives of unborn children, we think that's inappropriate.”

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“Ireland is a sovereign state, and the Irish people will have the final say on the question of abortion, the UN does not have jurisdiction over the issue,” Sherlock added. “The Irish people have made it clear they are happy that mother and baby are protected under Ireland's laws.”

Sherlock went further. She noted that the committee ultimately issued a report calling in one breath for greater efforts to end discrimination, and, in the next, for expanded access to abortion. But, “as the committee members will be aware, abortion is the ultimate discrimination, targeting the right to life of the unborn, the most vulnerable in our society.”

By the same token, she criticized the committee demanding more efforts on behalf of the disabled while ignoring that abortion on demand is used to terminate the disabled before birth. “The committee,” said Sherlock, “cannot continue to ignore these inconsistencies and expect its credibility to remain unchallenged.”

Finally, she contended that no UN declaration recognizes a right to abortion, but “Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” does recognize a “right to life.”  She added, “This is not the first time that a Committee associated with the UN has simply ignored the rights of the unborn and at this stage it is stretching credibility for the UN to claim to represent genuine human rights in any real way.”

Late last year, the Irish Times published a poll showing 68 percent support for a referendum extending abortion to cases of rape or when the baby would not survive birth.

  abortion, ireland, united nations

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