Abortion should be decriminalised ‘in all circumstances’ - UN committee

Child’s rights committee says schools ‘continuing to practise’ religious discrimination

UN committee says Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act  ‘prevents doctors from being able to provide services in accordance with objective medical practice’.

UN committee says Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act ‘prevents doctors from being able to provide services in accordance with objective medical practice’.

 

Abortion should be decriminalised “in all circumstances” and current Irish legislation should be reviewed to ensure women have “access to safe abortion and post-abortion care,” a United Nations Committee has recommended.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has published observations on children’s rights in Ireland, also said it was “deeply concerned” about the number of children in consistent poverty, “structural discrimination” against Traveller and Roma children, continuing discrimination against non-Christian children in schools and “inadequate” services and protections for child asylum seekers.

The concerns were expressed in the committee’s “concluding observations” on Ireland’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They come three weeks after Minister for Children James Reilly was examined by the committee on Ireland’s third and fourth combined reports to the Geneva-based committee.

The two most important children’s rights issues were poverty and homelessness, Dr Reilly told the committee.

In its comments, the committee said it was “deeply concerned about the significant increase in the number of children living in consistent poverty, including reports of this disproportionately affecting those of Traveller, Roma, refugee back grounds, as well as those who live in single parent households”.

Some 11.2 per cent of children were living in consistent poverty in 2014, the committee heard.

It said it was “deeply concerned” at the number of homeless families “frequently living in inappropriate, temporary or emergency accommodation on a long-term basis”. It called for emergency housing that was “appropriate to the needs of the children affected”.

It expressed “concern” that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, allowed abortion only where there was a “real and substantial risk” to the pregnant woman’s or girl’s life. This “prevents doctors from being able to provide services in accordance with objective medical practice”.

There was also a “severe lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education and emergency contraception for adolescents”.

On education, it said it “remains concerned at the very small number of non-denominational schools” and about “schools continuing to practise discriminatory admissions policies on the basis of the child’s religion and/or whether his/her parents are former students of the school.”

There was “structural discrimination against Traveller and Roma children and their families”. Travellers should be recognised as an ethnic group, it said.

Further concern was raised about children asylum seekers living in direct provision centres which were “not covered by national standards relating to children” and inspections were by “an internal inspectorate” which was not “adequately independent”.

Facilities in most centres were inadequate for families and children, while benefits to asylum seeker children were much lower than for other children, it said.

Among other recommendations, the committee referred to deaf children’s access to education, the voice of the child in legal proceedings and mental health care for children.

Mr Reilly welcomed the observations, saying they would be “referred to Government departments and agencies for attention”.