Woman forced to travel to UK for abortion takes case to UN

New-York-based Center for Reproductive Rights says Wexford woman had been subjected to ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’

Johanna Westeson, regional director of the Center for Reproductive Rights in Europe, said the two women had been forced to travel to the UK for abortions due to Ireland’s “harsh restrictions on abortion”. Photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire

Johanna Westeson, regional director of the Center for Reproductive Rights in Europe, said the two women had been forced to travel to the UK for abortions due to Ireland’s “harsh restrictions on abortion”. Photograph: Hugh Macknight/PA Wire

 

A woman who says she was forced to travel to the UK for an abortion after her unborn baby was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality has brought her case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Siobhán Whelan from Co Wexford was told 21 weeks into her pregnancy in 2010 that the foetus had Trisomy 13 or Patau syndrome, a terminal condition that carries a high risk of miscarriage.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which yesterday filed the case on Ms Whelan’s behalf, said she had been subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.


Three cases
It is the second such case to be brought by the New York-based organisation to the UN committee and is one of at least three cases it intends taking. The first case, that of Amanda Mellet, was brought in November.

Johanna Westeson, regional director of the CRR in Europe, said the women had been forced to travel to the UK for abortions due to Ireland’s “harsh restrictions on abortion”. “The core of the problem is the law itself – and this means there is a systematic problem,” she said.


Critical information
She said that in Siobhán’s case, other than it being pointed out to her almost immediately after the diagnosis that she could not receive a termination in Ireland, she was denied critical health information.

“They didn’t even refer her for pregnancy counselling – she was thrown out and left alone and totally abandoned.”

Ms Westeson called on the UN committee to act swiftly to call on Ireland to expand women’s access to “essential abortion care as mandated under human rights law”.


No choice
Speaking last night, Ms Whelan said she felt she had had no other choice than to travel to the UK, having already been told that the baby would most likely die in the womb or very soon after being born.

“We didn’t want to wait, possibly as long as 20 weeks and give birth to our son who was going to suffer and die.

“I couldn’t imagine the suffering I would have gone through in that time,” she said. “The woman’s mental well-being and mental health doesn’t come into it, that’s not even considered.”

She said she was bringing the case to help other women in the same situation and to raise public awareness.