Irish Abortion Law Under Scrutiny

abortion laws mapNext week, the European Court of Human Rights will hear arguments about whether Ireland’s abortion laws violate women’s human rights. Current Irish law outlaws legal access to abortion, making an exception only to save a pregnant woman’s life. Because of this strict law, thousands of women have had to travel to the neighboring United Kingdom to obtain the abortions they need.

The case will be brought before the court by three women who say that their health was endangered by having to make the trip to the UK. The health issues that were implicated by their pregnancies included ectopic pregnancy, where the fetus develops outside of the uterus, and undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

As the map above shows (click it to enlarge), legal access to abortion varies greatly in different regions of the world. While individual countries make their own laws about the procedure, it is essential to women’s equality. Banning the procedure doesn’t reduce the number of abortions; it increases the number of unsafe abortions which can lead to infection or death. We hope that the court will recognize that abortion is a fundamental right and that Ireland’s law will adjust accordingly.


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The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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