Amanda Mellet was forced to fly to England to terminate her pregnancy in 2011 after she was told at 21 weeks of pregnancy that the baby had a fatal fetal impairment and would not survive outside the womb. In 2013, she took her case to the UN Human Rights Committee.
In June 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Ireland’s abortion laws had subjected Amanda Mellet to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and discrimination, in violation of Articles 7 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On 29 November 2016, Minister for Health Simon Harris, who said he had found her case deeply upsetting, met with Ms Mellet and her husband to outline Ireland’s response to the UN ruling. On 30 November, the government of Ireland offered her €30,000 and access to all appropriate psychological services in compensation for the suffering she experienced.
Amnesty International Ireland welcomed the decision. Executive Director Colm O’Gorman said: “We are heartened that the government has accepted the UN Committee’s findings, by offering compensation and counselling for the harm Ms Mellet suffered. This response acknowledges the harm caused to women by the current law. The government must now comply with the Committee’s ruling that Ireland reform its laws to ensure that no woman or girl will ever face similar human rights violations.”
Prof Sarah Cleveland, an independent member of the UN Committee, told The Irish Times that she thought if women in a similar situation to Ms Mellet also took a case to the Committee, the Government would also be required to pay them compensation. However, legal sources said that the compensation payment did not create a precedent that can be relied upon in the Irish courts.
The Government also said it could not make a commitment to alter the law because it would require a referendum. Instead, it had set up an Irish Citizen’s Assembly to take evidence on the issue that is due to report by the end of 2017.
SEE ALSO: Inaugural meeting of Irish Citizen’s Assembly, Campaign newsletter, 21 October 2016