Ireland's abortion law violates human rights, UN rules

It is the second time in the space of a year that the organisation has condemned the country's record on reproductive rights 

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The Independent Online

A woman’s human rights have been violated by Ireland’s abortion law, according to the United Human Rights Committee.

It ruled that the Irish government must redress the harm caused to Siobhán Whelan when she was denied an abortion in a landmark case in 2010.

It said that the state had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ prohibition against cruel, inhuman and discriminatory treatment, and had also breached her right to privacy and equality.

Ms ​Whelan was forced to travel from the Republic of Ireland to the UK to terminate her pregnancy, despite the fact her foetus had a congenital brain malformation which only 3 per cent of foetuses are expected to survive.

Welcoming the ruling, she said: “I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the committee for its recognition of the harm I suffered, and the violation of my human rights, as a result of Ireland’s abortion laws.

“In taking this case, my hope was to bring about a change in our laws so that when faced with the tragic news of a fatal foetal impairment women would have a choice to end the pregnancy in Ireland and not be forced to carry the pregnancy to term or to travel out of the country to access health care services like I had to do.”

The UNHRC’s also recommended Whelan be provided with psychological treatment and reaffirmed its recommendation that Ireland legalise and widen access to safe abortions.

It is the second time time in 12 months the committee has criticised Irish law, which gives foetuses citizen status and makes abortion a criminal act under the Eighth Amendment. 

In a similar case last year, UN experts ruled that Amanda Mellet, who had been forced to travel to the UK for an abortion, should be compensated by the Irish state. She was awarded €30,000 (£26,400) in damages by the Irish government.

However, under the country's 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, abortions may now be provided if a mother's live is in immediate danger. 

Right groups criticised the government earlier this week after it emerged that a young girl who thought she was being sent to Dublin for an abortion, was also forcibly sectioned last year.

The case was highlighted in a report published by the Child Care Law Reporting Project.

Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said: “Looking at the report, it’s hard not to think that the psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs.”