Sunday, 17 August 2014

AIMSI Statement on Irish Independent article 'Pregnant woman refused abortion gives birth by caesarean' August 15, 2014

AIMSI made this statement in relation to this article by Dearbhail McDonald posted online late Friday August 15th, 2014 in the Irish Independent:

In May 2013, AIMSI made a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Heads of Bill that would eventually become the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013). One of the statements made in this submission was that “as long as Article 40.3.3 remains as an impervious legal barrier to a woman’s right to a termination...the risk to a mother’s life will precariously hang in the balance. The stark reality for a pregnant woman in Ireland is that Article 40.3.3 hangs like a spectre over her care as there are myriad instances where this ambiguously worded and legally flawed amendment overrides a pregnant woman’s human rights.”

This chilling case is a bleak reminder of how this legislation is profoundly flawed. Rather than doing anything to help mitigate the stigma attached to both mental health difficulties and abortion, the legislation continues to distance the medical profession and the government from the woman at the heart of the matter and it further perpetuates a negative stereotype. The discrimination of women who find themselves in this emotionally devastating position – of carrying an unintended pregnancy and of seeing no way out of this difficulty - only serves to isolate women at an extremely vulnerable time and to highlight power differences between a woman and so called ‘experts’. While there is very little detail reported on this story, there is enough to tell us that a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, consent and dignity continues to be eroded in the name of legislation that is supposed to protect her life. The fact that current legislation was used to deny a woman her legal right to an abortion, due to risk of self destruction, and then used to force her to undergo major abdominal surgery (presumably against her will) is unconscionable in a civilised society. 

The main thrust of the argument for supporting the rights of women across the maternity services, whether they are choosing a home birth, a cesarean section, an intervention-free birth or an abortion is summed up succinctly by Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. At a UN General Assembly in August 2011, Mr Grover presented a report, in accordance with the Human Rights Council entitled: Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. This report is seen as a milestone in the area of rights to reproductive and sexual health as it plainly articulates the reasons why legal restrictions in this area constitute a violation of a woman’s right to health and an “unjustifiable form of State-sanctioned coercion” (UN, 2011, p. 5). The report is disparaging of the human rights violations that are perpetuated in the few remaining countries, such as Ireland, where abortion is completely criminalised or where it is only allowed to save the life of a woman. Anand Grover said at the UN General Assembly meeting, when presenting this report: 

“Realization of the right to health requires the removal of barriers that interfere with individual decision-making on health-related issues and with access to health services, education and information, in particular on health conditions that only affect women and girls. In cases where a barrier is created by a criminal law or other legal restriction, it is the obligation of the State to remove it. The removal of such laws and legal restrictions is not subject to resource constraints and can thus not be seen as requiring only progressive realization. Barriers arising from criminal laws and other laws and policies affecting sexual and reproductive health must therefore be immediately removed in order to ensure full enjoyment of the right to health.” (UN, 2011, p. 2)
AIMSI fully supports the reproductive rights and choices of ALL women and we will continue to advocate and campaign for these rights. 

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), 66th Session. Interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Anand Grover (A/66/254)3 August 2011.

For more information and commentary on this case, please see the following:

Doctors for Choice Ireland blog post 17/08/2014 -

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