Friday, October 18, 2013

Do anti-abortion laws infringe Human Rights?

During spring semester, a huge controversy was stirred up by a 40 feet high board which showed the images of aborted fetuses. It re-ignited the “pro-life” vs “pro-choice” debate. I heard angry reactions from many students, but the controversy died down when they left.

However, recently controversy on this very topic has erupted in another country, Ireland. Ireland is a catholic dominated nation and hence most of their laws are influenced by catholic ethos. Abortion was considered unconstitutional under any circumstances and many Irish women were forced to fly to britain or other european nations if they wanted one. One of Ireland’s most famous abortionist Mamie Cadden was sentenced to death for her “crimes” in 1957. In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Irish abortion law violated Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

This tussle between the catholic church and feminists have been going on for quite a while now but the situation turned on its head when Savita Halappanavar died on Oct 28,2012 because of miscarriage and subsequent refusal by the Irish doctors to perform the abortion. This unfortunate event led to nationwide protests which spilled over to Britain and India. People marched in her memory and many activists called for a change in the abortion policy. Some people even labeled the event as violation of human rights because of the ruling of European Court. The Irish Government, reeling under international pressure, passed a legislation on July 30, 2013 which protects a woman’s life during pregnancy through abortion.

Before I go any further, I would like to clarify that I am not taking sides in the “pro-life” vs “pro-choice” debate. However the laws which were in place in Ireland before this event did violate the most basic human right, “The right to life”. Many of my peers may point out that the fetus also had the same rights. I agree, however in this case the mother suffered a miscarriage yet no steps were taken to save her life. There are six countries in the world (Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Holy See/Vatican and Malta) which do not allow abortion under any circumstances. I understand if a country takes a "pro-life" stand, however no country should have the right to sacrifice a mother's right to life on the altar of these laws. Even if a country is "pro-life", they should enact bare minimum laws to protect the mother. I hope the aforementioned countries change their policy to allow abortions under the circumstances when mother’s life is in danger so that no other woman suffers the horrible fate that Savita Halappanavar suffered and a woman’s basic human rights are not violated.

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