Petition filed to UN on travelling for abortion

First of three petitions to UN from Irish women

Pregnant women, who receive a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality and are forced to leave Ireland for terminations, suffer human rights violations "as serious and as reprehensible . . . as torture, detention or imprisonment", a leading international human rights activist has said.

Johanna Westeson, of the New York-based Centre for Reproductive Rights, was addressing a press conference in Dublin to announce the filing in Geneva yesterday of the first of three petitions to the United Nations from Irish women alleging that their having had to travel for abortion following such diagnoses amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Member states
Amanda Mellet, Ruth Bowie and Siobhán Murphy, members of the Terminations For Medical Reasons group, are taking the cases to the UN's Human Rights Committee in Geneva. The committee monitors member states' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The three are supported by the New York centre as well as by Doctors For Choice.

The papers in Ms Mellet’s case were filed yesterday, while those in Ms Bowie’s and Ms Murphy’s cases will be filed early next year.


At the press conference Ms Mellet described her experience of travelling to Liverpool in 2011 to terminate her pregnancy.

“I have no doubt in my mind that being forced to leave Ireland to end my pregnancy of my much-wanted baby, that that journey has overshadowed my grief,” she said.

Ms Westeson, the centre's Europe director, said all three women had been "profoundly scarred" by the experience.

Ms Mellet had been “denied critical reproductive healthcare in her own country”.

One Day More
Meanwhile the One Day More group, which represents women who choose to continue their pregnancies following fatal foetal diagnoses, issued a statement calling for less focus on abortion and more on peri-natal hospice care.

Spokeswoman Cliona Johnson called for the provision of such care for women who receive such diagnoses. "Peri- natal hospice care is there for parents to support them as soon as they receive a diagnosis. In real terms it gives families an opportunity to prepare to meet their baby and make memories with them, however brief that may be."

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times