Bioethics News

Ireland Abortion Ban Violated Woman’s Human Rights, U.N. Panel Says

By Genevieve Lewis

In early June, the United Nations called on Ireland to amend its constitution in order to change the current laws regarding abortion, which were deemed a violation of human rights. The UN faces a deeply political struggle to change Ireland’s strict abortion laws because of the country’s Catholic roots. The United Nations called Ireland’s laws “cruel,” “inhumane,” and “degrading” to the women who suffer because of them.

Moreover, the UN is pushing for the compensation of Amanda Mellet, a 42 year-old who was forced to travel out of the country in 2011 in order to terminate her non-viable pregnancy, because she experienced immense emotional and psychological distress. Doctors induced a 36 hour labor period in which Ms. Mellet gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, and was forced, due to financial reasons, to return to Ireland only 12 hours after the procedure. To make matters worse, three weeks later, the fetus’s ashes were unexpectedly delivered to Ms. Mellet, and afterwards she was denied state bereavement counseling under Irish law.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee reported, “she was subjected to a gender-based stereotype that women should continue their pregnancies regardless of the circumstances, their needs and wishes, because their primary role is to be mothers and self-sacrificing caregivers.”

In 2012, 31 year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar died from complications in miscarriage because her doctors refused to preform an emergency abortion, subsequently causing international outrage.

Currently, abortion in Ireland in only permitted if the pregnancy proves to be fatal to the pregnant mother. Pro-choice advocates and organizations are lobbying to broaden the exceptions to include rape, incest, inevitable miscarriage, and fatal fetal abnormality.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.