The U.N.'s Human Rights Committee has ruled that Ireland’s ban of abortions in the case of fatal fetal anomalies is cruel and inhuman.
The committee found that Ireland had violated a woman’s human rights by forcing her to choose between carrying a fetus to term knowing it would not survive or traveling abroad for an abortion, reports The New York Times.
The case centered on Dublin woman Amanda Mellet, who in November 2011 learned when she was 21 weeks pregnant that her fetus severe congenital defects and that it would either die in the womb or shortly after birth. Although abortions in Ireland are allowed when the mother’s life is at risk, they are not permitted in cases of rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality.
The ban meant that Mellet had to choose “between continuing her nonviable pregnancy or traveling to another country while carrying a dying fetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered.”
Mellet traveled to England for an abortion and returned 12 hours after the procedure because she did not have the money to stay longer. She had to leave the fetus’s remains behind but “the ashes were unexpectedly delivered to her three weeks later by courier.”
The committee found that back in Ireland, she was “denied the bereavement counseling and medical care available to women who miscarry.”
“In addition to the shame and stigma associated with the criminalization of abortion of a fatally ill fetus,” the panel found, Mellet’s “suffering was aggravated by the obstacles she faced in getting information about the appropriate medical options.”
The U.N. committee determined that she was subjected to “discrimination and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,” reports NYMag.com.
The panel urged Ireland to provide Mellet with “adequate compensation and psychological treatment she may need.”
The committee concluded that, “To this end, the State party should amend its law on voluntary termination of pregnancy, including if necessary its Constitution, to ensure compliance with the Covenant, including effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland, and take measures to ensure that health-care providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions.”
The judgement was the first time an international human-rights committee had determined that a country’s abortion ban violates a woman’s human rights.
In a statement last week, Ireland’s health minister Simon Harris said: “We are studying these views, which we take seriously, and we are assessing the policy and legal implications. I have read the report from the U.N.H.R. Committee and find the experience this woman had deeply upsetting. I have met with families who have been through the trauma of knowing their baby will not survive and I have been very moved by hearing of their experiences. I want to see this issue addressed.”
In 2012, Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland after doctors refused to perform and abortion while she was having a miscarriage despite the 1992 Supreme Court ruling that abortion should be allowed when there is “a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother,” including from the threat of suicide.
Following Halappanavar’s death the Irish Parliament enshrined the court’s 1992 ruling into law, but the law still does not allow abortions in cases of incest, rape or fetal abnormality.
Fundamentalist right wing Catholics will be FURIOUS that the UN has censured Ireland for its abortion laws. Amnesty is handiest whipping boy— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) June 9, 2016
Taoiseach says the UN HRC decision on abortion is not binding on Ireland. 'Every woman ... is entitled to proper counselling'— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) June 10, 2016
H/T: New York Times.
UN: Ireland's abortion laws must change, including the Constitution to allow women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy safely #repealthe8th— Womenscouncilireland (@NWCI) June 9, 2016