The UN’s human rights committee has called on the Irish government to reform its restrictive abortion legislation, after ruling that it subjected a woman to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and violated her human rights.
The landmark ruling, which is expected to set an international precedent, calls on Ireland to introduce “accessible procedures for pregnancy termination” to prevent similar violations in the future. The judgment marks the first time that an international human rights committee has recognised that by criminalising abortion, a state has violated a woman’s human rights.
A panel of UN human rights committee experts found that Ireland’s prohibition and criminalisation of abortion services subjected Amanda Mellet to severe emotional and mental pain and suffering in 2011, when she was told she could not have an abortion in Ireland even though doctors had discovered that the foetus had congenital defects that meant it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.
Ruling on Mellet’s complaint, the committee concluded that Ireland’s abortion laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, meant that she had to chose “between continuing her non-viable pregnancy or travelling to another country while carrying a dying foetus, at personal expense, and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered”. This violated her right to freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Ireland has signed the international covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR), which is part of the international bill of human rights. As such, it is obliged to compensate Mellet and to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future, the ruling states.