No guidelines drawn up on abortion, says Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Government accused of failing to provide clarity on when procedure is legal

The Government is still failing to provide clarity as to when a woman can legally have an abortion, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has said.

The human rights watchdog says Ireland must remain under the supervision of Europe on the abortion issue until it can provide evidence that it is complying with European law.

The ICCL says that despite the passage of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act last July psychiatrists and obstetricians still have no guidance on how to implement it. The Act therefore has not been “rendered effective”.

The council makes its call in a submission to the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, which is monitoring Ireland’s compliance with the 2010 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.


Threat to life

The court’s ruling in the A, B and C v Ireland case said Ireland’s failure to implement the existing constitutional right to abortion in Ireland when a pregnant woman’s life was at risk of violated C’s human rights. That constitutional right flowed from the 1992 “X” case

Supreme Court

judgment which said abortion was legal where there was a threat to a pregnant woman’s or girl’s life including by suicide.

The Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act came into legal force in January and, according to the Government, gives effect to its commitment to comply with the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights in 2010.

A committee was established last autumn by the Department of Health to draw up clinical guidelines on how to implement the Act . It includes representatives from the department, the Health Service Executive, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons.


“However, information on the work of the committee has been publicly unavailable and it has yet to issue a report or publish clinical guidelines,” says the ICCL.

The committee has not met since January and no guidelines have been drawn up, according to a senior source. It is understood the delay is partly because a training programme for obstetricians and psychiatrists, on the issue, has not yet been established.

It is thought moves will be made in coming weeks to establish a training programme. The College of Psychiatrists and College of General Practitioners have raised concern at the absence of guidelines.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times