Press release: UN Human Rights Committee says Ireland’s prohibition on abortion violates human rights

In a landmark judgment today in the case of Amanda Jane Mellet v Ireland, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Ireland’s prohibition on abortion, in itself, violates human rights. The Abortion Rights Campaign is calling this judgment a milestone, with implications not only for Ireland, but internationally as well.

The Committee issued its findings in response to a case taken by Amanda Mellet, a founding member of Irish grassroots group, Terminations for Medical Reasons (TFMR). In 2011, Mellet and her husband discovered that their pregnancy carried a fatal foetal impairment and would not survive outside the womb. In order to avail of an abortion Ms Mellet was forced to travel to another country.

The decision details how she was forced to make this journey “while carrying a dying foetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family”, and how she was forced “to return while not fully recovered.” The Committee found that by forcing Mellet to travel, Ireland subjected her “to intense physical and mental suffering”. It also concluded that her health was detrimentally impacted by “the shame and stigma associated with the criminalisation of abortion”.

ARC welcomes today’s ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee, particularly as it constitutes the first time that Ireland’s prohibition on abortion, in itself, has been found to be a human rights violation. “While almost every Human Rights Treaty Monitoring body has condemned Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws, today’s decision goes beyond the realm of recommendations,” said ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh. “ The Human Rights Committee has called on Ireland to award Ms Mellet compensation and to revise its laws and Constitution to ensure no other woman or girl is forced to endure a similar ordeal. The Committee will be supervising Ireland’s compliance with this decision, to examine whether progress is being made.”

“It is vital to note that this decision does not relate only to cases of fatal foetal impairment,” said ARC spokesperson Linda Kavanagh. “This decision has much wider implications as it highlights the direct and indirect harm and discrimination resulting from prohibiting abortion in the state, including through criminalisation.

“Today’s decision is a watershed, though we regret that any woman should have to look to an international body for access to justice. We commend the bravery of Amanda Mellet, and of all the women who have spoken up about their experiences, challenging the State and the status quo.”