€30,000 for woman de­nied an abor­tion


New Ross Standard - - NEWS -

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 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.

Pic­ture: Michael De­bets/ Alamy Live News

Siob­han Whe­lan.

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