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State pays €30,000 to woman denied abortion in Ireland

The government has also offered her access to counselling services.

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File.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT has paid €30,000 in compensation to a woman who was denied an abortion here after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis.

The compensation will be paid to Siobhan Whelan in acknowledgement of a UN Human Rights Committee decision issued in June. In its decision, the UN recognised that Whelan’s human rights were violated.

The government has also offered her access to counselling services.

Details of the payout were first reported by Independent.ie.

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 20 January 2010, at 22 weeks, Siobhán’s pregnancy was terminated at the Foetal Assessment Centre at Liverpool Women’s Hospital. When she returned to Ireland, she 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,” she said in 2014.

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.

In its decision the UN Committee outlined that the Irish Government is obliged to provide compensation and measures of rehabilitation to Whelan for the human rights violations she endured when she had to travel out of Ireland to access abortion services as a result of the prohibition on abortion in Irish law.

It also outlined that in order to fulfil its remedial obligations Ireland must reform its laws to legalise abortion so as to ensure other women do not face similar human rights violations.

In a statement issued today, Siobhan Whelan said:

The Human Rights Committee’s decision this year on my complaint – in which it recognised the human rights violations I faced – was immensely important for me. I am very glad the Government has now taken steps to acknowledge the Committee’s decision by providing reparations to me and I am grateful for this recognition.

“However, for me, the most important aspect of the Government’s obligation is to ensure law reform so that other women no longer have to suffer in this way. This is why I took my complaint to the Human Rights Committee and I hope it will not be long before our laws are changed so that women like me can be given the best possible care at home.”

Leah Hoctor, regional director for Europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, who took the case alongside Siobhan, said:

We are please the government kept its promise of compensation to Siobhán Whelan. It’s an important step that acknowledges the harm she endured.

This is the second time the state has made such a payment, following a settlement with Amanda Mellett, who had to travel to England in 2012 for a termination.

A government spokesperson has been asked for a statement on the settlement.

Read: Ireland’s abortion laws to be challenged at the UN for a second time

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