Proving once again that "pro-life" is a total misnomer, the UN Human Rights Committee has harshly criticized both Ireland and Chile for their ridiculously draconian abortion laws, warning that the restrictions may be a violation of international human rights treaties.
In January, Ireland legalized abortion in extremely, extremely limited circumstances. The current law lays out dangerously vague and byzantine guidelines for when abortion is okay: if a woman's life is in danger, but, depending on the case, one to three doctors must agree that the "risk to life" is substantial — leaving women vulnerable to biased doctors and essentially barring access for low-income women who can't afford to see the necessary specialists. There is no exception for cases of rape or incest, nor for fetuses with severe deformities. In Chile, abortion is illegal without exception.
The UN report on Ireland criticizes the "highly restrictive circumstances under which women can lawfully have an abortion" in the country, further noting that the "lack of legal and procedural clarity concerning what constitutes 'real and substantive risk' to the life" of the mother renders the exceptions ineffective. Furthermore, notes the UN, the required "excessive degree of scrutiny" women must undergo in order to determine that the "risk to life" is substantial is totally fucked up and causes them extra and undue mental distress. Its recommendations include "revis[ing] its legislation on abortion, including its Constitution, to provide for additional exceptions in cases of rape, incest, serious risks to the health of the mother, or fatal foetal abnormality" and clarifying what, exactly, constitutes a threat to life.
The Irish Minster for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has since announced that the Government will "examine" the UN's proposals.
Similarly, the UN report on Chile urges the Chilean government to "establish exceptions to the general prohibition of abortion, contemplating therapeutic abortion and in those cases in which the pregnancy is a consequence of a rape or incest," further instructing that Chile "should make sure that reproductive health services are accessible to all women and adolescents." The UN also expressed concern over the insanely, horrifying high rate of clandestine abortions in the country: it's estimated that over 150,000 illegal procedures are performed a year. (Statistics show that banning abortion doesn't lower the rate at which it occurs — it just makes it far more likely that women will get illegal, unsafe, potentially life-threatening underground procedures.)
Alvaro Elizalde, a government spokesman for Chile, said that the UN recommendation "must be analyzed on its merit and if a decision is adopted it will be announced in a timely manner."
As Tara Culp-Ressler notes at Think Progress, both countries have recently come under intense scrutiny in recent years for horrifying cases in which women were denied the right to terminate unwanted pregnancies: "There were massive global protests after 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar's death in Ireland, which could have been prevented if she had received an emergency abortion, and widespread outrage after an 11-year-old Chilean rape victim was forced to continue a risky pregnancy," she writes.
It's wildly evident that these horrible, restrictive laws pose threats to women's health and bodily autonomy. Let's hope that this serves as a wake-up call to the governments of Ireland and Chile (sadly, I doubt much will change because the world we live in is a heap of sad, woman-fearing trash — I mean, this is far from the first time the UN has urged governments to stop telling what women to with their own bodies, and it will definitely not be the last).
Image via Getty.