More than 800 doctors and health professionals from 44 countries have called upon the Irish government to decriminalize abortion in an open letter published by Amnesty International on Friday. Irish law can impose sentences of up to 14 years in jail on doctors and health care providers who provide or assist in providing abortions to women and girls -- except when mother’s life is at risk. The letter was sent to Ireland’s Fine Gael-Labour Coalition in Dublin, warning that its laws threaten women’s health.

“The criminalization of abortion prevents healthcare providers from delivering timely, medically indicated care in accordance with their patients’ wishes,” the letter read, also condemning governments in Chile and El Salvador for similar laws. “It impedes and disregards sound medical judgment and can undermine the professional duty of care and confidentiality that doctors bear towards their patients.”


The letter comes on the heels of a popular social media campaign earlier this month. The campaign urged the government to repeal Ireland’s 8th amendment, which outlaws abortion by equating a fetus’ right to life with a woman’s. The Twitter campaign saw Irish women tweeting Prime Minister Enda Kenny about their menstrual cycles, sarcastically inviting government interference in women’s reproductive choices. But Kenny has said he will not consider a referendum on abolishing the amendment without bringing in something to replace it.

“Believe me, believe me. To commit to abolishing the 8th amendment without consideration of what you might do is not on my radar,” he told media in September.

Abortion has been a fiercely debated topic in the country after widely criticized incidents, including the death of a woman in 2012, who contracted blood poisoning after a miscarriage. A medical inquest later found that the woman, Savita Halappanavar, would have lived if she had received the abortion that hospital staff had refused to perform.