Posted: June 17th, 2016
The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations has said that the Irish government should alter the laws that prevent women seeking abortions for fatal foetal abnormalities.
Despite recent changes to the Eighth Amendment – which protects the right to life of the unborn – such that women may seek terminations if it can be shown that the mother’s health is jeopardised, there are still many instances in which terminations are illegal. For example, if the foetus is malformed and as such will lead to a miscarriage, it is illegal to abort the foetus. Additionally, pregnancies that are the result of incest or rape are not allowed to be terminated.
Many Irish women are negatively affected by such laws, and will often travel abroad for medical treatment. One such woman was Amanda Mellet, who found out twenty-one weeks into her pregnancy that her foetus fatally abnormal. She was informed that the pregnancy would end in miscarriage, or that her baby would die very shortly after birth. Not wanting to endure either scenario, Amanda decided to travel to the United Kingdom and undergo an abortion.
However, Amanda’s experience was highly upsetting as she could not easily access information before the treatment and was not entitled to bereavement counselling upon her return home. In light of this, Amanda decided to set up “Termination for Medical Reasons”, an organisation that has campaigned for changes to Irish law and has even petitioned the UN Human Rights Committee. The organisation claims that the current laws are cruel, discriminatory, inhuman and degrading.
The committee found in Amanda’s favour, ruling that her well-being was put at risk because of the Irish law. They also said that Amanda had undergone necessary financial and emotional suffering, and recommended that the State compensate her for their failure to provide a termination “in the familiar environment of her own country and under the care of health professionals whom she knew and trusted.”
The United Nations also recommended that the Eighth Amendment should be revised to allow Irish women to access “effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland, and take measures to ensure that healthcare providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions.”
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