Update: Ireland’s abortion laws may be liberalized

Earlier this month in Ireland Savita Halappanavarafter died after she was denied a medically necessary abortion. In the following days, allies in Ireland and across the world protested the Republic’s archaic and convoluted anti-abortion laws. Now, according to the Irish Independent, Ireland might be headed for long-needed policy change:

The Government has been told in the expert group report that the State is under a legal obligation to establish “effective and accessible” procedures so that women who are “legitimately entitled” can have an abortion in Ireland…

The report suggests it will be necessary to repeal the 1861 statute governing abortion, which it believes has a “chilling effect” on the treatment of pregnant woman in Irish hospitals.

The top-secret report was commissioned from an expert group following a European Court of Human Rights finding that an Irish citizen’s rights were violated because of the absence of procedures to establish if she qualified for a lawful abortion.

The report, expected to be published tomorrow and commissioned before Savita’s death, disappointingly maintains the government’s right and responsibility to “regulate and monitor” the status of fetuses, which are granted a “right to life” based on a 1983 constitutional amendment. (For a concise history of abortion legislation in Ireland, check out the Guardian‘s helpful summary).

We’ll have to wait to read the full report tomorrow, but it seems the panel makes no call to loosen restrictions on what reasons to terminate are “good enough,” let alone to guarantee reproductive autonomy regardless of a woman’s motivations for seeking an abortion. Yet the “expert group” does stress the importance of clarifying the country’s stances to make sure that medically necessary abortions are not just legal but accessible–and that doctors can save lives like Savita’s without fearing prosecution.

These recommendations don’t go nearly far enough. However, an official, kind-of-state-sanctioned call for legislative reform offers an opportunity for Savita’s angry allies to push for policies that will ensure abortion rights for all Irish women.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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