Claims News

UN: Change Eighth Amendment to Accommodate Fatal Foetal Anomaly Abortions

Posted on: June 10th, 2016

The UN has told the Government to relax its prohibition on fatal foetal anomaly abortions – reforming the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution if necessary.

In November 2011, 21-weeks pregnant Amanda Mellet was given the devastating news that her unborn child had a fatal foetal anomaly and would die in the womb or shortly after birth. As the law in Ireland prohibits fatal foetal anomaly abortions, Amanda had the options of continuing with a non-viable pregnancy or travelling to the UK to have an abortion.

Despite there being little legally-available information about fatal foetal anomaly abortions in the UK, Amanda chose the latter option. Unfortunately her experience was exceptionally disturbing. Amanda had to travel to the UK alone, leave the UK hospital twelve hours after the procedure due to a lack of funds, and had the ashes of her unborn child delivered to her by courier three weeks later.

Unable to seek bereavement counselling or post-operative medical care, Amanda made a complaint to the United Nations via the Centre for Reproductive Rights – a non-profit organization that promotes the rights of women to abortions. The Centre claimed that Amanda´s physical and emotional well-being had been jeopardised by Ireland´s ban on fatal foetal anomaly abortions.

After considering Amanda´s claim, the UN´s Geneva-based Human Rights Committee found that Ireland´s ban on fatal foetal anomaly abortions is discriminatory, cruel, inhuman and degrading. The Committee said that Amanda had been subjected to unnecessary financial and emotional suffering and called for the ban to be relaxed – with the Eighth Amendment recognising the right to life of an unborn child reformed if necessary.

In its findings the Human Rights Committee said: “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 healthcare providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions.”

In addition to telling the Government to change the Eighth Amendment in order to accommodate fatal foetal anomaly abortions, the UN has ordered the state to pay Amanda compensation for failing to take her medical needs and socio-economic circumstances into account. The Committee found that many of the negative experiences Amanda went through could have been avoided if she had not been prohibited from terminating the pregnancy “in the familiar environment of her own country and under the care of health professionals whom she knew and trusted.”

Speaking after the Human Rights Committee´s decision had been announced, Leah Hoctor – the European Regional Director for the Centre for Reproductive Rights – said: “The Irish Government must now comply with this ruling, redress the harm Ms Mellet suffered and reform its laws to ensure other women do not continue to face similar violations.”

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