Wednesday 21 August 2019

State pays €30k in compensation to woman denied abortion in Ireland

Siobhan Whelan. Photo: Michael Debets/Alamy Live News
Siobhan Whelan. Photo: Michael Debets/Alamy Live News
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The State has paid €30,000 in compensation to a woman who had to travel to the UK for an abortion after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis.

The settlement with Siobhan Whelan was agreed in recent days, has learned.

It also involves a commitment to fund supports for the Co Wexford woman.

The settlement came after a United Nations committee found Ms Whelan's human rights were violated and recommended she be compensated and have psychological treatment provided to her.

It is the second time the State has compensated a woman who had to go abroad to terminate a pregnancy.

Earlier this year the UN Human Rights Committee concluded Ms Whelan was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in 2010 after a scan revealed her unborn son had holoprosencephaly, a congenital brain malformation occurring in one in 250 pregnancies during early embryo development, and 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 20,000 at term.

The condition meant the foetus would likely die in her womb and if carried to term the baby would probably die during labour or soon after.

But Ms Whelan was prohibited from having a medical termination in Ireland.

She was offered little or no information on her options and was told by her obstetrician to attend ante-natal classes as normal and wait for nature to take its course.

In a complaint to the UN committee, she said she ended up feeling like a criminal travelling to Liverpool for an abortion.

Ms Whelan was assisted in making her complaint by the New York-headquartered Centre for Reproductive Rights.

The UN committee’s report 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, Ms 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."

It was the second time the UN committee ruled against Ireland in relation to a complaint about the country’s restrictive abortion regime.

Another woman, Amanda Mellet, was awarded €30,000 in compensation by the State after her complaint was upheld by the committee. The State also agreed to provide and cover the costs of psychological support services and counselling.

Ms Mellet had to travel to England in 2012 for a termination after her unborn baby was diagnosed with Edwards’ syndrome with congenital heart defects, and given a prognosis of death shortly after birth if not in the womb.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News