Woman paid €30,000 over having to travel for abortion

UN Human Rights Committee case concerns abortion in UK for fatal foetal abnormality

Outside the Department of the Taoiseach in 2015, over 80 suitcases signify the number of women who travel to the UK to access a safe and legal abortion. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Outside the Department of the Taoiseach in 2015, over 80 suitcases signify the number of women who travel to the UK to access a safe and legal abortion. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government has paid €30,000 in compensation to a woman who travelled to the UK for an abortion after a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

Siobhan Whelan, who successfully took a case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee earlier this year, has also been offered access to counselling services.

Ms Whelan is the second woman to take a case to the UN committee claiming her human rights had been infringed by Ireland’s ban on abortion. Last year Amanda Mellet, who also travelled abroad for an abortion following a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, also had her case upheld and the Government agreed to pay her €30,000 compensation.

In a statement, Ms Whelan said, “The Human Rights Committee’s decision this year on my complaint – in which it recognised the human rights violations I faced – was immensely important for me. I am very glad the Government has now taken steps to acknowledge the committee’s decision by providing reparations to me and I am grateful for this recognition.

“However, for me, the most important aspect of the Government’s obligation is to ensure law reform so that other women no longer have to suffer in this way. This is why I took my complaint to the Human Rights Committee and I hope it will not be long before our laws are changed so that women like me can be given the best possible care at home.”

Eighth Amendment

Ms Whelan’s case was taken with the support for the Centre for Reproductive Rights, which is appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment on Wednesday.

The UN decision also required Ireland to change its laws on abortion. The Government has replied that it has undertaken a process which may lead to a change, though any repeal of the Eighth Amendment – which as article 40.3.3 of the Constitution underpins Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws – can only happen if a referendum is successful.

The UN Human Rights Committee has said that, at a minimum, abortion must be provided in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

However, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recently objected to this view. Objecting to “fatal foetal impairments” being used as a specific ground for abortion, the disability committee said such an approach was risky given there was no guarantee as to whether or not a foetal abnormality was fatal.

“Even if the condition is considered fatal, there is still a decision made on the basis of impairment. Often it cannot be said if an impairment is fatal. Experience shows that assessments on impairment conditions are often false,” the committee stated.