UN calls on Ireland to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest

Ten member states ask for commitment to legislative changes

UN calls on Ireland to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest

Pro-choice campaigners demonstrate outside Government Buildings earlier this year | RollingNews.ie

The UN's Human Rights Council has called on Ireland to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.

Ireland has said it will be consider the recommendation, along with 97 others.

The new Fine Gael-led government has made no immediate commitment to holding a referendum on the eighth amendment, which gives effect to the state's ban on abortion. 

However, there is a commitment in the programme for government to establish a citizens' assembly to make recommendations to the Dáil on constitutional changes, including on the eighth amendment.

Earlier this week, the UN Human Rights Council held hearings where dozens of other countries had the chance to grill Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald on Ireland's human rights record.

The result of that hearing has been published this afternoon - with 10 countries formally asking Ireland to consider expanding its abortion laws to allow termination in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.

The move was welcome by Amnesty International Ireland, which called on Ireland to take heed of the recommendation.

“Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world," said Colm O'Gorman, its executive director.

"Access to abortion is only lawful in life-threatening situations, with a potential penalty of 14 years in prison for women or health professionals who have or perform abortions outside these narrow circumstances.

"We welcome Ireland accepting Switzerland’s recommendation that it engage with stakeholders, including civil society, towards potentially revising its constitution and abortion laws."

However, the Pro Life Campaign said the government should "not passively roll over" and accept the criticism.

Spokesperson Cora Sherlock said: "The UN is fully aware that Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world for pregnant women.

"Yet in an abuse of the term ‘human rights’, it is spending a huge amount of time pushing abortion in Ireland while at the same time maintaining a noticeable silence regarding horrendous abuses in the abortion industry like what happens in Canada and England where babies born alive after botched abortions are routinely left to die alone without receiving any medical assistance."

The recommendation on abortion is among 97 others made by member states under the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights.

Ireland has already agreed to accept 152 other recommendations - including one from the Vatican, which wants a housing-led approach to end long-term homelessness.

But it rejected a call from Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, to consider a universal basic income for every citizen.