Wednesday 21 February 2018

State shelves cash aid plan in abortion cases

Department won't pay to repatriate remains in cases of fatal foetal abnormality

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Tom Burke
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Women who have UK abortions involving a fatal foetal abnormality will not have the remains repatriated to Ireland at the State's expense.

Last year, the Department of Health said such a proposal was receiving active consideration following the high-profile case of Amanda Mellet.

The Irishwoman made headlines worldwide after the UN found she suffered discrimination, plus cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, having been forced to travel to the UK to terminate a pregnancy. Her foetus had been diagnosed as having a fatal abnormality.

However, Ms Mellet had to return home - just 12 hours after having the procedure - because of financial reasons despite the fact she was bleeding and felt light-headed.

Three weeks after she had the termination, the ashes of the foetus were unexpectedly delivered to her by courier.

The UN ruled Ms Mellet had undergone financial and emotional suffering.

The Government paid her €30,000 in compensation - because having decided to terminate her pregnancy she then had no option but to have an abortion abroad.

Now, the Sunday Independent has learned that the proposal to provide financial aid to other women in a similar position has been shelved.

The Department of Health confirmed the Government had not changed its position in this area.

"The substantive issues relating to the Eighth Amendment, including those cases where there is a fatal foetal abnormality, are being considered by the Citizens' Assembly," a department statement said.

"However, the policy remit for this area lies with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and there has been no policy change in this area."

Sources insisted the "focus" was now on providing "bereavement care" for families.

"Repatriation is not in the same category - the emphasis is on counselling for families in those situations," one source said.

This is despite the fact that at a meeting with the Terminations for Medical Reasons (TFMR) group in July, Health Minister Simon Harris indicated that financial assistance for women who terminate a pregnancy because of a fatal foetal abnormality might be on the cards.

At the time, the Department of Health had also confirmed Mr Harris would consider "within the law" what other services and responses could be put in place to help affected women and their families.

Sunday Independent

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