€30,000 for woman denied an abortion
UN COMMITTEE SAYS WEXFORD WOMAN’S HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATED
THE State has paid €30,000 in compensation to a County Wexford woman who had to travel to the UK for an abortion after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis.
It also involves a commitment to fund supports for Siobhan Whelan and comes after a U.N. committee found her human rights were violated and recommended she be compensated and have psychological treatment provided to her, which the government said had been done.
In its decision, the Committee outlined that the Irish Government is obliged to provide compensation and measures of rehabilitation to Ms 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.
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.
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.
Ms Whelan was in the 20th week of her second pregnancy in January 2010 when an ultrasound scan at Wexford General Hospital revealed her baby had the rare Alamy Live News Picture: Michael Debets/
congenital brain malformation.
She was told the baby would probably die in utero or, if carried to term, during labour or shortly after.
Her obstetrician told her that in another jurisdiction she would be offered a termination but ‘obviously not in this country due to Irish law’. She was told she would continue with the pregnancy until nature took its course.
Tests a week later in the National Maternity Hospital showed the baby also suffered from Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome), which she was told was ‘incompatible with life’. 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.
A doctor gave her a report of the scan ‘in case she wanted to travel’, but no information was offered on counselling services or options open to her. Ms Whelan said she didn’t feel that she could discuss the possibility of a termination with the doctor.
Given her earlier experience with the Wexford obstetrician, she “felt it was illegal to even discuss this or ask too many questions for fear of having the door slammed in our faces or of not receiving any help whatsoever”.
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.
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,’ Ms Whelan said in her a statement, a copy of which was sent to this newspaper.
It is the second time the State has compensated a woman who had to go abroad to terminate a pregnancy.