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Government to Pay Compensation to Woman Forced to go to the UK for Abortion

Woman who was forced to go to the UK for a termination will be paid compensation by the Irish Government after the UN Human Rights Committee found in her favour, deeming her treatment under the law “inhumane”.

Under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Article 40.3.3º), the right to life of an unborn child is protected unless there is a risk to the health of the mother. Consequently women seeking abortions when there is no risk to their health have to travel outside of Ireland–often to the UK. Pregnant women have to travel even if their unborn child is diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality or the pregnancy is attributable to the mother being raped.

It is estimated that hundreds of women travel outside of Ireland each year seeking abortions. One such woman was Amanda Mellet, who. In November 2011, when she was just 21 weeks pregnant, she was given the devastating news that her unborn child would die in the womb or shortly after its birth due to a fatal foetal anomaly. Rather than continue with the non-viable pregnancy, Amanda chose to have an abortion in the UK. Amanda also claims that there was a serious lack of information offered to her in Ireland regarding fatal foetal anomaly terminations.

Amanda´s experience of her abortion was traumatic. Due to limited funds, she had to travel to the UK alone without emotional support and return to Ireland just twelve hours after undergoing the procedure. The hospital at which she underwent the procedure offered no options about the handling of her unborn child´s remains and, three weeks later, the foetus´ ashes were unexpectedly delivered to Amanda by courier.

Amanda found that there was no bereavement counselling due to abortions available in Ireland on her return. In order to help women who underwent experiences similar to her own, she founded the organization “Termination for Medical Reasons”. The organisation wishes to campaign for a change to the law in Ireland. Amanda also sought legal counsel and complained to the United Nations´ Human Rights Committee through the Centre for Reproductive Rights. She claimed that Ireland was violating women´s human rights by maintaining its position on abortion.

The Human Rights Committee found in Amanda´s favour – saying that Article 40.3.3º jeopardised Amanda´s well-being and subjected her to unnecessary financial and emotional suffering. Ruling that Ireland should revise its Constitution in order to provide “effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination”, the committee also ordered the Government to pay Amanda compensation for “inhuman” abortion laws in Ireland.

Leah Hoctor – the European Regional Director for the Centre for Reproductive Rights – issued a statement after the ruling was announced, in which she 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.”

Amanda also issued a statement following the ruling. She expressed her gratitude to the Human Rights Committee for its recognition that her human rights were violated as a result of the prohibition and criminalisation of abortion in Ireland. In respect of the Committee´s order for the state to pay compensation for inhuman abortion laws in Ireland, Amanda said:

“The decision not only vindicates my rights. It also serves to uphold the rights of many other women in Ireland who have faced and continue to face human rights violations under the current legal regime. The Human Rights Committee has made it clear that to redress the violations that I suffered, the Irish Government must ensure that other women do not live through similar violations of their rights. This cannot happen until Article 40.3.3 is repealed, until abortion is decriminalised and legislation is adopted to enable women to access services in Ireland.

With today’s decision in hand, I wish to finally leave behind these painful memories; and hearing the Committee’ findings today does help in my own healing, but my most sincere hope is that it may assist Ireland’s government in finding the courage to make the necessary changes in law. I hope the day will soon come when women in Ireland will be able to access the health services they need in our own country, where we can be with our loved ones, with our own medical team, and where we have our own familiar bed to go home and cry in. Subjecting women to so much additional pain and trauma simply must not continue.

Finally, I ask that the media respect my wish for privacy for myself and my husband James, who has supported me every step of the way”.

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