5 December 2012

Dear Madam Secretary, 

            On the occasion of your visit to Ireland this week, as part of which you will deliver an address at Dublin City University on the theme of human rights, we would like to take this opportunity to express our deep concern at what Human Rights Watch last month described as an “urgent gap in women’s human rights” in Ireland. The failure of seven successive Irish governments to legislate for the constitutional right of women in Ireland to have access to safe and legal abortion when their lives are at risk has resulted in ongoing and unacceptable danger for pregnant women in the country. This danger was tragically highlighted last month by the death in an Irish hospital of a young Indian woman, Savita Halappanavar. As Irish citizens, as members of the Irish diaspora in the United States, and as citizens of the US and elsewhere who wish to express solidarity with women in Ireland, we respectfully ask that, as you meet with the Irish government, and as you speak at DCU, you bear in mind this extremely serious gap in Irish law which constitutes a clear violation of basic human rights. 

            The situation to which we refer is a consequence of the unwillingness of Irish governments to introduce legislation giving force to the Irish Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in the X case, which stated that a woman is entitled to an abortion when a continued pregnancy would pose a real and substantial threat to her life. A 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C case further found Ireland to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to implement procedures which would allow a woman to establish her right to an abortion within Ireland. The Court also noted that the criminal provisions enshrined in the current law, which dates from 1861, constituted a “chilling factor” for women and medical professionals. 

            Savita Halappanavar died in University Hospital Galway on October 28th, having been admitted whilst suffering a miscarriage one week previously. Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, has stated that her request for a termination was refused by hospital staff, with one doctor invoking the reasoning that Ireland was “a Catholic country”. After an agonizing three-day miscarriage, Savita was found to have contracted septicemia and E-Coli, and died three days later. 

            Savita’s death has provoked a mass outpouring of grief and anger from those who believe that a termination may have saved her life and, more crucially, that the lives of pregnant women in Ireland must be protected by clear legislation for the twenty-year-old X case ruling. Organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as the UN’s Committee Against Torture have stated that there is an urgent need for domestic legislation in line with international human rights principles, including the very clear ruling from the European Court of Human Rights. The government recently informed the Council of Europe that it plans to take a decision on how to implement the judgment of the Court by December 20th, after the Irish Parliament has debated a report by an Expert Group established to examine this issue. We hope that both the debate and the government’s decision will be based on Ireland’s human rights obligations including its obligations on women’s rights, and that it will be followed by swift implementation. 

            Otherwise, Ireland will continue to be in clear violation of its international obligations on human rights, despite having committed, during its recent successful campaign for membership of the UN Human Rights Council, to the full promotion of such rights in its domestic policy. Deeming this to be a matter of urgent concern both on an Irish and international scale, we would ask, Madam Secretary, that you might consider addressing this very real and present danger to the lives and health of pregnant women during your visit to Ireland this week. The Irish government must take the right decision to protect the rights of women in Ireland, and it should do so without further delay. 

            Yours sincerely, 

Total number of people who have signed so far:

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jeanette Brannigan
05/12/2012 23:40

Aoife Moloney
05/12/2012 23:42

05/12/2012 23:43

matt crosbie
05/12/2012 23:46

06/12/2012 03:35

I'm really sorry but I seem to have signed the petition twice by mistake - can you remove one of my signatures?

06/12/2012 05:07

We've done that Jane, and we've made it clearer that you should put your name in the box for the others who left comments! Thanks for your support and please keep sharing!

Sarah Whelan
06/12/2012 08:14

Vincent Heaney
06/12/2012 08:50

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people involved in this campaign to have given me the opportunity to vote in this gravest of all situations.
As an Ulsterman and as a consequence an Irishman I believe that the deeply serious situation which has blighted the lives of so many people south of the border must be exposed to every corner of the globe
Vincent J Heaney

Leo de Freyne
06/12/2012 12:23

Thanks. This is a new civil rights campaign. We are going all the way for FULL ABORTION RIGHTS. It will be a long struggle. :-)


Jill Murphy
06/12/2012 09:09

Lucy Earley
06/12/2012 09:17

Valentine Lemmel
06/12/2012 09:27

Suzan Gunbay
06/12/2012 09:39

Stephen Beechinor
06/12/2012 09:41

I've accidentally signed this twice. Can you correct please? And well done on the initiative.

Alan Butler
06/12/2012 10:13

Harry Bookless
06/12/2012 11:02

Síle Ní Chatháin
06/12/2012 12:15

Marcella Gillick
06/12/2012 16:42

Sarah Baxter
06/12/2012 16:44

Lucinda Nolan
06/12/2012 17:25

Lara campbell
06/12/2012 22:13

Jennifer dignam
07/12/2012 00:11

Niamh Briody
08/12/2012 16:55

I put my name down twice by an accident

09/12/2012 22:10

I regret very much that advocates for abortion in Ireland continue to use tragic cases like Savita and the X Case 20 years ago to promote abortion in Ireland.
The maternal death rate in Ireland is thankfully one of the lowest in the world and this without recourse to abortion.
Countries where abortion is available have much higher maternal death rates , like the USA where maternal deaths are approx 3- 4 times greater than in Ireland.
At a major international symposium on Maternal Healthcare held in Kings Inn Dublin early in September – a declaration was made by the attending experts that:-
... direct abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman and
... the prohibition of abortion does not affect in any way the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.

Irelands Doctors are free to give all necessary treatment to women during pregnancy even if the unintended result is the death of the baby.

So please before you sign any letters or petitions please make yourself aware of the real situation in Ireland.

Our preference is for a culture of hope rather than one of despair


Nice post to read, thanks for making aware of certain things.

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Tony Curran
15/04/2013 16:07

You are most welcome.


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