Ireland, like almost every country in the world, appears on a regular basis before this or that UN committee to give an account of how well it is meeting its various human rights commitments. Those committees have often exceeded their briefs by demanding Ireland introduce abortion. We have done that now, so the next step is to pressure us into making the law even more permissive.
The way these things work is that local NGOs inform like-minded people on the committees of the changes they want in their countries, and the committees then lend their weight to them. (A briefing note we issued a few years ago deals with this topic). The NGOs are frequently pro-choice and very secular.
Ireland is to appear before the UN Human Rights Council for one its ‘periodic reviews’ on November 10, and true to the normal pattern, a number of Irish organisations are pushing UN Human Rights Council to recommend a more permissive abortion law in Ireland.
The Iona Institute, along with the Pro-Life Campaign, signed up to the submission from Alliance Defending Freedom. The document focuses on freedom of conscience, parental rights and end of life matters.
On the other hand, the Abortion Rights Campaign and other pro-choice groups recommend abolishing conscientious objection, removing the 12-week limit for abortion-on-demand, removing the three-day waiting period and decriminalising abortion in all circumstances.
There is no UN treaty or convention that would justify such demands and, if accepted, these recommendations would make the Irish abortion legislation among the most extreme in the world.
They also want to close what they call “deceptive rogue agencies”, a derogative expression referring to pro-life services – such as Gianna Care – that offer alternatives to abortion and help mothers in need.
Amnesty International want to extend abortion for cases of foetal impairments which are not fatal but only severe. That would include Down Syndrome.
Babies with severe disabilities could be aborted up to birth. The Irish law allows abortion at any stage of the pregnancy – with no time limits- when the baby is expected to die within 28 days, however Amnesty want to allow abortion of severely disabled babies even when they could survive and live for years.
This is clear discrimination as babies with disabilities would be treated differently from those without them. What UN convention could justify this?
A submission by the Irish Council for Civil Liberty, endorsed by the Irish Family Planning Association, the National Women’s Council, and other like-minded groups, want to limit the right-to-protest via exclusion zones outside abortion facilities.
They claim that “ongoing anti-abortion activity … can cause distress, exacerbate existing societal stigmas and pose a serious risk to a range of rights”, and so they are asking to introduce exclusion zones outside abortion providers. They are also calling for the decriminalisation of illegal abortions, which means that abortions performed outside the limit of the law should not be considered a criminal offence. They also want the mandatory three-day waiting period to be removed.
Besides the topic of abortion, another worrying issue is the request to limit the role of religion in Irish education. This can be found in the submissions by Atheist Ireland and the Humanist Association, for instance.
The Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council should be the occasion to improve human rights in Ireland and it is astonishing that those groups are asking, instead, for a restriction of rights with regards to conscientious objection, equality for disabled people, religious freedom, education, parental rights, etc. These are all issues widely covered and guaranteed by UN treaties and conventions. Any change in the direction proposed by those Irish groups would be a betrayal of Ireland’s human right commitments and must be opposed.