We must repeal the 8th Amendment to respect the human rights of pregnant women

by Michael Nugent on September 6, 2014

There are many reasons to repeal the so-called ‘Pro-Life’ Amendment to the Irish Constitution. One of the most important reasons is respecting the human rights of pregnant women under international human rights law.

This is a video of the United Nations Human Rights Committee questioning Ireland in Geneva in July about its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Human Rights Committee asked Ireland why it was in breach of the human right of pregnant women to an abortion in wider circumstances than allowed by Irish law.

The Irish State delegation replied that Irish abortion law reflects the will of the Irish people, as determined in the 8th Amendment to the Constitution and subsequent laws.

The Human Rights Committee said that that was a completely unacceptable reason for denying human rights, and that the very core of human rights law is a safeguard against the tyranny of the majority.

After a break in the session, the Irish Justice Minister Frances FitzGerald formally withdrew the remark and accepted that “the majority will does not and can not derogate from human rights obligations.”

This is a very significant statement, and one that is being ignored by the Irish Government at home.

But the commitment has been formally given, on behalf of the Irish Government, and we should not let them forget that as we campaign for the repeal of the 8th Amendment.

Whatever laws we pass, we should base them on human rights and compassion, and on applying reason to empirical evidence, and not on religious doctrines.

We should respect that individual ethical decisions should be made on the basis of personal autonomy and individual conscience, while not infringing on the rights of others.

We should respect that individual ethical decisions about pregnancy should be made by a pregnant woman in consultation with her medical team.

But before we can do that, we must repeal the 8th Amendment, so that our parliamentarians are free to democratically pass laws that respect the human rights of pregnant women under international human rights law.

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