Fatal foetal abnormality: More State payouts likely

UN human rights committee member says Amanda Mellet ruling applies to other cases

Amanda Mellet had taken a case against Ireland to the UN Human Rights Committee, which found that her rights had been breached by Ireland’s strict ban on abortion. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Amanda Mellet had taken a case against Ireland to the UN Human Rights Committee, which found that her rights had been breached by Ireland’s strict ban on abortion. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

A member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee has said that Ireland may be required to pay compensation to women who travel abroad to have abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

Earlier this week the Government agreed to pay €30,000 to Amanda Mellet, who travelled to the UK to terminate her pregnancy after being told that her baby would die either before or shortly after birth.

Ms Mellet had taken a case against Ireland to the UN Human Rights Committee, which found that her rights had been breached by Ireland’s strict ban on abortion. The committee also required Ireland to change its laws on abortion.

Now Prof Sarah Cleveland, an independent member of the UN committee, has told The Irish Times that if women in a similar situation to Ms Mellet took a case to the committee, the Government would also be required to pay them compensation.

“If the same facts arose, the same obligation would apply,” she said, speaking in a personal capacity.

Further cases

The Irish Times has learned of another case against the Irish Government which is currently before the UN committee, and sources say that further cases are likely.

Prof Cleveland made clear that Ireland would remain in breach of its human rights obligations as interpreted by the committee until such time as the ban on abortion is relaxed.

“The Irish Government is under obligation to prevent another such situation from occurring in the future,” she said.

In its formal response to the committee’s ruling in the Mellet case – delivered on Thursday – the Government explained to the committee the process it has embarked on to consider Ireland’s abortion laws. It said the Citizens’ Assembly would report by the middle of next year, after which an Oireachtas committee would consider any proposal for a change in the law.

Amanda Mellet took her case to the UN Human Rights Committee after she travelled to the UK for an abortion. Ms Mellet was in her 21st week of pregnancy in November 2011 when she learned her foetus had congenital heart defects and would die in the uterus or shortly after birth.