THE UN Human Rights Committee has found that the abortion laws in Ireland are “cruel, inhuman, or degrading”, after a case was brought by a woman who had had to travel to the UK for the termination of a non-viable foetus.
The Geneva-based committee of independent experts found that Amanda Mellet, whose unborn child had suffered from a foetal abnormality, was subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, owing to the ban on abortion in Ireland. She was, they said, forced to choose between carrying her baby to full term — knowing it could not survive — or going abroad for a termination.
Ms Mellet was 21 weeks pregnant in 2011 when she was informed of her baby’s condition. She travelled to the UK at her own expense, and had to return to Ireland 12 hours later, as she could not afford to stay for after-care. A few weeks later, her baby’s ashes were returned to her by a courier.
The UN Committee is calling on the Irish government to reverse the strict laws, at constitutional level if necessary, and has ordered that Ms Mellet be compensated financially, and be provided with psychological treatment. It has given the government six months to report on what action has been taken to comply.
The Irish Health Minister, Simon Harris, said that Ms Mellet’s case was “deeply upsetting”, but ruled out a constitutional referendum on the abortion laws until a citizens’ assembly was formed to review the matter. “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.”