Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Sunday that legalizing abortion is “a question of fundamental rights for women.”
“On the issue of reproductive rights,” Trudeau said, “I shared our perspective that reproductive rights for women are integral to women’s rights in general and women’s rights are human rights and I encouraged him to look at it as a question of fundamental rights for women and we had a good discussion on that.”
“We discussed the issue of abortion, which I know is an important issue for a lot of campaigners for women’s rights in Canada,” Varadkar commented. “I updated the prime minister on our plans to have a referendum next year to give the people of Ireland the opportunity to remove our constitutional ban on abortion, should they wish to do so.”
Ireland currently outlaws abortions except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
The United Nations has been very critical of Ireland’s abortion law. The UN Human Rights Committee ruled twice in the past year that banning abortion violates a prohibition on “cruel, inhuman and discriminatory treatment” because two women had to travel overseas to get abortions.
The UN’s Committee Against Torture even pressured Ireland on the issue saying, “that Ireland’s abortion laws have come to the attention of the UN Torture Committee should be a wake-up call to the State. This Committee cannot be ignored: Ireland must end reproductive coercion and fulfill its obligations under international human rights law by introducing abortion services that respect women’s human rights, health and autonomy.”
Varadkar announced a 2018 referendum on the issue on his first day in office. However he also pushed back on the UN’s involvement saying the UN was not a court and the issue would be decided by Ireland’s voters.
Trudeau has been pushing abortion issues internationally since taking office, receiving pushback from Canada’s bishops for slotting $650 million in foreign aid for “abortion advocacy and sexual reproductive rights on a global scale,” and only $119.25 million for “severe food shortages in South Sudan, Yemen, northeast Nigeria and Somalia.”
Trudeau’s Minister of International Development, Marie-Claude Bibeau, defended this focus by arguing that “contraception and even abortion is only a tool to end poverty.”
Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister, participated in a three-day meeting on a range of issues and marched in the Montreal Pride Parade alongside Trudeau.
"Countries that are progressive, open and diverse, like Canada and Ireland have a responsibility to other people in other parts of the world where equality and equal rights are under threat and the clock is being turned backwards,” Varadkar said at the event.