Mellet still waiting for Government response to UN ruling

Lawyers say there has been no meaningful engagement since abortion decision

The Government has yet to respond substantively to Amanda Mellet, who successfully took a case against Ireland at the UN's Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) last June.

Ms Mellet took a complaint to the UN body claiming that her human rights had been infringed because Ireland’s laws prevented her from having an abortion after a diagnosis of Edwards’ syndrome, a condition which meant her baby would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

In June, the UN Committee ruled in Ms Mellett’s favour, requiring the Government to offer compensation to the complainant, to provide her with treatment and to change its laws.

The state has six months to report back to the UN committee to give an account of how it has met with the requirements of the ruling, but lawyers for Ms Mellett say there has been no meaningful engagement with them since the ruling. A recent parliamentary question said that the Government was "considering the views of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and will inform the Committee and the named individual's representatives of the State's response within the required timeframe."


Though the state has a further four weeks before the deadline, the lawyers say it is unusual that the state has not been in consultation with Ms Mellett, at least regarding the two aspects of the ruling — compensation and treatment — which are specific to her.

Heart defects

Ms Mellet was 21 weeks pregnant in 2011 when her baby was diagnosed with Edwards’ syndrome with congenital heart defects. She was given a prognosis of death shortly after birth if not in the womb. Edwards’ is one of a group of conditions widely known as a fatal foetal abnormality, although death in the womb is not certain.

Ms Mellet and her husband travelled to Liverpool for a termination in 2011. In November 2013, the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organisation which campaigns for access to abortion, filed a complaint on her behalf to the UN Human Rights Committee, arguing that Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws “violated her basic human rights by subjecting her to severe mental suffering and anguish.”

In its ruling, the UNHRC found that Ms Mellet’s situation amounted to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

It called for the strict prohibition to be reversed, including reforming the right to life of the unborn in the Constitution if necessary, to allow women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy safely.

It also required the Government to provide compensation and treatment to Ms Mellett if necessary.

Nothing has been offered so far.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times