‘Current laws make vital services only accessible to the wealthy’: BHA and BPAS advocate for rights of Irish women and girls at the UN Human Rights Council

21 September, 2016

Palais des NationsThe British Humanist Association (BHA), in a joint statement with the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS) to the assembled nations of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), has spoken out against the Republic of Ireland’s continued refusal to amend the Irish constitution, which prohibits abortion in all instances, unless there is a threat to the life of the mother.

Ireland must hold a referendum in order to amend the constitution, which it has failed to do so in relation to abortion since the introduction of Article 40.3.3 in 1983, except for two further referendums in 1992, which permit women and girls to travel abroad to seek abortion services, and obtain information about such services within the territory.

BPAS and the BHA pointed out that such provisions in effect mean that safe, legal abortion is only available to wealthy women and girls who can afford the estimated €1000 cost of travelling to the UK to access the service, effectively discriminating against poorer Irish women and girls. The BHA is concerned that even if women and girls do have the means to travel, it is routinely reported that they suffer severe emotional and physical trauma due to having to carry a foetus for a prolonged period of time, travelling at personal expense, separated from their families, and having to return while not fully recovered. The situation in Ireland has been criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee as violating the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Council were also reminded that Irish abortion laws are illegal under international human rights law, and urged Ireland to hold a referendum on the subject as soon as possible, and fund a public campaign encouraging the public to vote in favour of removing article 40.3.3 from the constitution entirely.


For further comment or information, contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at pavan@humanists.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the full statement: https://humanists.uk/wp-content/uploads/UN-HRC33-BHA-BPAS-Ireland-UPR.pdf

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.