This week, the Irish Government will appear before the UN Committee for the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. The hearing takes place in Geneva and while it focuses on many areas of life affecting women such as equal pay, the issue of abortion is also on the table for discussion.
As expected, prochoice NGOs based in Ireland are seizing on the opportunity to push their case for the removal of the Eighth Amendment, despite the fact that there is no right to abortion in international human rights law. There is a right to life, set out in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the “right to life, liberty and security of person”, but this does not deter those who want to see the rights of unborn children stripped out of the Irish Constitution where they are protected by the Eighth Amendment. .
Groups like the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the Abortion Rights Campaign are making the case for abortion before the CEDAW Committee, all the while ignoring a very basic fact – abortion is the ultimate discrimination. Targeting the rights of unborn children is an attack on the most vulnerable members of Irish society.
Unborn babies who are diagnosed with any kind of disability are particularly at risk as we know that in countries like England and Wales, where abortion is freely available, 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted. That figure rises to 100% in Iceland and it is purely discriminatory.
The practice of sex selection abortion also acts as discrimination, particularly against baby girls who are usually targeted in this way. This is something which must be taken into account by the CEDAW Committee if they are going to remain true to their purpose of eliminating all discrimination against women – at whatever stage of life. International abortion providers like the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which was disgracefully invited to address the Citizens’ Assembly in Ireland, did not support recent attempts to impose a ban on this sexist practice in the UK.
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Ireland’s Eighth Amendment is the very opposite of discrimination. As the last constitutional protection for unborn children in Ireland, it has acted as a life-saving provision since its insertion into the Constitution in 1983. A recent independent actuarial report estimated that tens of thousands of lives have been saved since 1983 – these are people who considered an abortion only to change their minds in the time it took them to plan to travel abroad for the procedure. As a result, their children are now alive.
Abortion advocates in Ireland rarely give any time to the incredibly inspiring stories these families have to tell but having spoken with many people in this position, the same reflection keeps on coming through. They consistently remark about their child: “I can’t imagine my life without them”. This is the life-saving effect of the Eighth Amendment and it is something which is not respected by those who want to see the provision removed.
Sadly, pro-life campaigners will not be very hopeful about the hearing before the UN Committee that takes place this Wednesday. The common practice for Committees of this nature is to criticise countries like Ireland which support and protect the right to life of unborn children. At the same time, they fail to investigate discriminatory human rights abuses of countries where abortion has become freely available.
In this regard, babies born alive in so-called botched abortions and left to die alone without medical care, are completely ignored by UN Committees which do not work towards protecting their rights and safeguarding their lives.
Finally, the particular type of insidious discrimination spread by abortion when it becomes accepted in a society must be borne in mind by the CEDAW Committee. In this regard, women who suffer from abortion regret are too often ignored by abortion advocates who disregard their pain and label their children as nothing more than a “clump of cells”.
Families who say they felt pressure to abort when told that their children were suffering from life-limiting or terminal illnesses experience similar discrimination as they are effectively shut out of the debate. And the families of people with disabilities are told that the Eighth Amendment has nothing to contribute to their family members when the reality is that thanks to our life-saving provision, all human beings in Ireland are given special protection under the law, regardless of their ability.
Pro-life supporters will be waiting to see how the CEDAW Committee addresses the issue of abortion in its dealings with the Irish Government tomorrow. The aspects of the debate mentioned must be taken on board if the Committee is to have any hope of achieving its aim of eliminating all discrimination against women.