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Rights group criticizes Ireland abortion laws

[JURIST] Ireland's restrictive abortion laws [advocacy backgrounder] increase health risks to women and expose them to deliberate misinformation about abortion procedures, according to a report [text; press release] released on Thursday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. Ireland's current legislation prohibits abortion for any reason except when the mother's life is threatened and carries a potential sentence of life imprisonment. The report states that Ireland's restrictive laws create a heavy financial and emotional burden on women who are forced to find alternatives either secretly or abroad. According to HRW, "[s]ince 1980, hundreds of thousands of women have traveled to the UK from Ireland to terminate their pregnancies." HRW women's rights advocacy director Marianne Mollmann said:

Women in need of abortion services should, as a matter of international law and - frankly - human decency, be able to count on support from their government as they face a difficult situation. But in Ireland they are actively stonewalled, stigmatized, and written out.

According to the report, the government also fails to regulate "rogue" pro-life agencies who provide women with false information about abortions.

The release of this report comes as Ireland awaits what may be a landmark decision on women's rights in Ireland. In December, the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] in a case brought by three women alleging that current Irish abortion laws violate their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The three women, who all traveled to the UK to have abortions, lodged the complaint in July 2005, alleging that the current Irish abortion laws make the procedure "unnecessarily expensive, complicated, and traumatic." A judgment is expected [Irish Times report] in six to eight months.

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