Doctors from 44 countries call for abortion law reform

Pro-life/Pro-choice Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Doctors in the Republic of Ireland may face 14 years in jail if they provide or assist an abortion when a woman's life is not at risk

Irish doctors joined health professional from more than 40 countries in signing an open letter calling for the decriminalisation of abortion.

Health professionals from Trinity College Dublin added their names to 838 signatures from 44 countries in a letter published by Amnesty International.

The letter warns the legislation interferes with doctors' ability to care and places women's health at risk.

Doctors in the Republic of Ireland could face jail terms of up to 14 years for providing an abortion.

"The criminalization of abortion prevents healthcare providers from delivering timely, medically indicated care in accordance with their patients' wishes," the letter said.

"It impedes and disregards sound medical judgment and can undermine the professional duty of care and confidentiality that doctors bear towards their patients."

Amnesty's Grainne Teggart said: "Ireland's laws, north and south, are a matter for global embarrassment.


"Women should have access to an abortion when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest and in cases of severe or fatal foetal impairment."

The letter criticises laws in the Republic of Ireland where healthcare professions could face jail for providing an abortion, other than when a woman's life is at risk.

The legislation in the Republic of Ireland is criticised for being too ambiguous for medical professionals, said Dr Peter Boylan, a former master and clinical director of Ireland's national maternity hospital.

"Under the [current law] we must wait until women become sick enough before we can intervene," Dr Boylan said.

"How close to death do you have to be? There is no answer to that."

More on this story