Abortion Rights Still Denied

In 1861, abortion was made a criminal offence in Ireland. One hundred and forty three years later the Irish government continues to deny women their right to choice. Between January 1980 and December 2002, over 105,000 Irish women terminated a pregnancy in the UK. These figures exclude Irish women that did not leave Irish ad-dresses and those that are now travelling to mainland Europe because of the Euro and cheap flights from here to cities such as Brussels.

The Irish government denies the option of abortion to victims of rape, to women who have suffered incest or sexual abuse, and to women whose life or health is at risk from continuing with the pregnancy. In fact, the Republic of Ireland has one of the most draconian abortion laws in Europe. At present abortion may only be performed where continuation of the pregnancy poses a 'real and substantial' risk to a pregnant woman's life. In reality a woman must be dying be-fore a life saving abortion can be performed. Information about abortion services in the UK is restricted in Ireland. Under the 1995 Information Act, information about abortion clinics is only legally available through face-to-face counselling sessions. Ireland is completely out of sync with the rest of the EU. Only Portugal, and with the expansion of the EU on May 1st, Poland and Malta have similar restrictive abortion laws.

Alliance For Choice is a diverse group of pro-choice activists that are campaigning for free, safe and legal abortion services in Ireland. The choice to have an abortion is a difficult and emotional decision for any woman to make. We believe that Irish women should be free to make this decision without the intrusion of the Irish State and Catholic Church. Since the formation of Alliance of Choice we have engaged in a wide range of pro-choice activities. This year to mark In-ternational Women's Day we publicly broke the 1995 Information Act in Dublin and in Cork. This Act makes it illegal for a doctor to 'refer' a patient to abortion services abroad, or make an appointment with an abortion clinic on behalf of a pregnant woman, even if her health is at risk. The Act has serious implications for the protection of women's welfare when they are faced with a crisis pregnancy. In conjunction with the Cork Women's Right to Choose Group we will be organising a series of pro-choice actions at the EU Health Ministers Meeting in Cork City in early May. If you would like to get involved you can contact Alliance For Choice at allianceforchoice@eircom.net or visit our website at http://www.struggle.ws/ireland/allianceforchoice. For in-formation about the Cork Women's Right to Choose Group e-mail cwrcg@yahoo.ie

If you are in a crisis pregnancy situation and would like information about all the op-tions available to you - parenting, fostering, adoption and abortion contact the IFPA on 1850 49 50 51 or visit the website: http://www.ifpa.ie

If you would like information about clinics in the UK and Europe a website has been set up by Irish pro-choice activists at http://struggle.ws/ireland/choice

by Niav Keating

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This edition is No81 published in May 2004

Cover of WS81