Ireland has again been sharply admonished for its failure to legislate for wider abortion law before a hearing of United Nations member states in Geneva.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was taken to task yesterday by delegations from several countries including the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Lithuania at the human rights' periodic review.
The failure to extend abortion to women with fatal foetal abnormalities or victims of rape or incest was criticised despite the minister's pledge that the new government will set up a Citizen's Assembly to make recommendations on changes including consideration of repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
It comes as the lead author of a major global study on abortion rates said Ireland's official figures - based largely on statistics provided by UK clinics - is an under-estimate of the true number of pregnancies being terminated.
Dr Gilda Sedgh of the Guttmacher Institute in New York who led the study published in the Lancet Journal told the Irish Independent the rate of four abortions per 1,000 women of child bearing age would not stand up to scrutiny. It is based on figures showing around 4,000 women from the Republic have abortions in the UK annually.
She said: "What we have from Ireland is mostly indirect evidence. On average women are having two children each in Ireland and only 60-62pc of married women are using contraception."
She said it is unclear how many women are having medical abortions by buying drugs over the internet.
"We also do not know how many women are really travelling to England or elsewhere and not going on record on their address."
The official abortion rate for northern European countries is 18 per 1,000 women but it is not possible to say what the real picture in Ireland is.
The study found that generally the abortion rate in countries where abortion is banned or restricted is on average the same as that in countries where it is available on demand.
The study, which involved the World Health Organisation, showed abortion rates have fallen significantly over the last 25 years in developed countries and is at a "historic low."
Dr Sedgh said: "In developed countries, the continued fall in abortion rates is largely due to increased use of modern contraception that has given women greater control over the timing and number of children they want."