Tuesday, November 19, 2013

State abortion laws challenged at UN

The Government has been accused of violating the basic human rights of a woman forced to travel to England for an abortion by subjecting her to severe mental suffering.

Amanda Mellet has filed papers before the UN Human Rights Committee to hold Ireland accountable for what she claims was the inhumane and degrading way she was treated.

Her case has been backed by the Centre for Reproductive Rights and Terminations for Medical Reasons.

In May 2011, Ms Mellet, 38, and her husband James Burke, 36, who live in Dublin, were forced to travel to Liverpool to terminate their pregnancy when medics diagnosed fatal foetal anomaly.

She fought back tears as she said the most horrific and heartbreaking experience of her life was compounded by the treatment she received — or did not receive — in Ireland.

“There is no doubt in my mind being forced to leave Ireland and end my pregnancy of my much wanted baby overshadowed my grief,” she said.

Ms Mellet said it was not easy to share their loss publicly, but they had to show that the issue affects ordinary people whose dreams are shattered and turned to sorrow: “We could be your neighbours, friends and relatives.

“What happened to us could happen to any woman.”

The couple’s case is the first of three petitions to be lodged with the UN.

Ruth Bowie and Siobhan Whelan are due to take action early next year.

Ireland recently passed new abortion laws which clarified that a legal abortion can be carried out when the mother’s life is at risk, including suicide.

But the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill did not include non-viable pregnancies.

Johanna Westeson, regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said that Irishwomen are being cruelly denied the option of safely and legally ending their pregnancy.

“Because of Ireland’s harsh policies, Amanda was forced to travel like a fugitive to the United Kingdom to obtain legal abortion services and was essentially shamed for the only medical option that made sense to her,” she said.

“Without the strength and means to travel, Amanda would have been forced to carry to term, fearing every minute her foetus had died in utero or that she would give birth only to watch her baby die.”

The controversial abortion debate reignited last year when Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar died from septic shock after she was refused a termination as she miscarried because a foetal heartbeat was present.

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