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In Ireland, it’s news to many that having an abortion in most cases is punishable with 14 years in jail

Activist holding photo of Savita Halappanavar
AP Photo/Peter Morrison
An activist for abortion legalization holds up an image of Savita Halappanavar, who died of a miscarriage after being denied an abortion in 2012.
By Sasha Zients
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Amnesty International wants to remind Irish people that abortion for any reason other than to save a life is still illegal in Ireland—and punishable with jail time.

Using the hashtag #notacriminal, the organization is disseminating figures via social media from a new poll conducted on its behalf by Red C—a research and marketing company based in Dublin—which found that 64% of Irish people surveyed either did not think or did not know that abortion without an identified risk to life is a criminal offense in Ireland. People who are found to have undergone or performed an abortion where without such a risk can face up to 14 years in prison.

The organization is calling for a referendum on an abortion law that was passed in 2013. That’s when the Irish government permitted abortion in “protection of life” situations—the “X-case,” where the pregnant person’s life is at risk, including risk of suicide.

This mitigation of the draconian anti-abortion law followed the 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, who died of a miscarriage after being denied an abortion for medical reasons in 2012. The 2013 law was considered groundbreaking, considering Ireland has a powerful Catholic majority of over 80 percent.

Amnesty International Ireland‘s polling found that 81 percent of people favor significantly widening the grounds for legal abortion in Ireland.

Only 7 percent of people in Ireland were found to oppose abortion under any circumstances and even among those who do not believe abortion should be legal, only 31 percent agreed with the jail sentence.

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