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14.58 22 Jun 2015


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A United Nations committee has called on Ireland to hold a referendum on abortion.

The Economic and Social Council says it is concerned at Ireland's "highly restrictive legislation" and how it is strictly enforced.

It is calling on Ireland to take "all necessary steps" - including a referendum - to allow wider access to terminations in line with international standards on human rights.

"The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary steps, including a referendum on abortion, to revise its legislation on abortion," it says.

The finding comes after two days of hearings on Ireland's rights regime at the committee in Geneva earlier this month.

The report says the committee is particularly concerned at the criminalisation of abortion - including in the cases of rape and incest and of risk to the health of a pregnant woman.

It also voices concern over the lack of legal and procedural clarity on what constitutes a real substantive risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the pregnant woman.

The report singles out "the discriminatory impact on women who cannot afford to get abortion abroad or access to the necessary information."

It says it is further concerned at the limited access to information on sexual and reproductive health.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik welcomed the Economic and Social Council's call - and she wants all the political parties to clearly state their position on abortion, as Labour has done.

Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign says unborn children are in more danger in Ireland than they are in other countries, as a result of the laws introduced by the government two years ago.

The Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said it is an issue for the Labour Party - and will be addressed after the next general election.


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