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Ireland's abortion laws to be challenged at the UN for a second time

Siobhán Whelan says that she will “never forget” how she had to travel to the UK to have an abortion after she was told her baby would die at birth.

Image: Abortion via Shutterstock

A SECOND CHALLENGE to Irish laws forbidding abortions for medical reasons has been lodged with the UN.

The Centre for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which filed three petitions on behalf of an Irish woman, Amanda Mellett, alleging human rights violations with the UN Human Rights Committee in November, announced today that they are bringing another case to the committee.

The Centre filed the case on behalf of Siobhán Whelan, who was forced by Ireland’s restrictions on abortion to travel to the United Kingdom to obtain safe and legal abortion services after she learned that she was carrying a foetus with a fatal anomaly.

The Centre say that they filed today’s petition to “hold Ireland accountable for violating Siobhán’s basic human rights by subjecting her to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, interfering with her privacy, and discriminating against her on the basis of her gender”.

Johanna Westeson, regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights said that the Irish system is “cruel”.

“Rather than ensuring women with non-viable pregnancies have all the information and services they need to make their own personal decisions about their reproductive health, the Irish health system cruelly denies them both critical reproductive health information and safe and legal options to end pregnancy.”

Siobhán’s story

Siobhán Whelan became pregnant in September 2009.

About 21 weeks into the pregnancy, doctors at Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital informed Siobhán that the foetus had a fatal anomaly called Trisomy 13.

One doctor informed Siobhán that in another jurisdiction she would be offered a termination, but that this was not possible in Ireland.

On January 20, 2010, at 22 weeks, Siobhán’s pregnancy was terminated at the Fetal Assessment Center at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. When she returned to Ireland, Siobhán was not offered any support to deal with her grief.

“The Irish doctors made me feel like it was illegal to discuss the option of termination for fear of having the door slammed in my face or of not receiving any help whatsoever,” said Siobhán Whelan.

“I will never understand why I had to pack my bags and leave Ireland so I could access the medical care I needed. It is truly demeaning and I will never forget it.”

Siobhán is a member of Terminations for Medical Reasons Ireland (TFMR Ireland), an advocacy group campaigning for Ireland to amend the abortion law to allow women to terminate pregnancies due to fatal foetal abnormalities.

TFMR continues to meet and offer support to women whose babies have been diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities. The group’s website can be found here. They be reached by email: tfmrireland@gmail.com. Support group Leanbh mo Chroi can also be found on Facebook, or contacted by email at leanbhmochroi@gmail.com or by telephone on 086 747 4746.

Read: Women who travelled to UK for terminations to bring case to United Nations

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