UN Calls for Reform of Eighth Amendment
A recent ruling by the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee has determined that the current laws in Ireland preventing medical terminations are endangering the wellbeing of Irish women.
This criticism comes in spite of a recent change to the Eighth Amendment – the part of the Irish constitution that protects the right of the unborn foetus – in 2013. This change loosened strict laws preventing abortions, now allowing them in cases where it is seen that the pregnancy puts the life of the mother at risk. However, terminations are still prohibited in cases of rape, incest, or if the foetus has abnormalities that will result in death either later in the pregnancy or shortly after birth.
These strict criterion force many women seeking abortions to go abroad. Amanda Mallet was one such woman – during the twenty-first week of her pregnancy, Amanda was told that her foetus had severe deformities that would lead to an inevitable miscarriage. Amanda did not want to endure a miscarriage, and as such went to the United Kingdom for treatment.
However, the entire experience was upsetting: whilst in Ireland, Amanda was not easily able to access information concerning the procedure, and she was not entitled to any bereavement counselling. Based on her bad experience, Amanda set up the “Termination for Medical Reasons” campaign to lobby the government to change the restrictive legislation. The organisation proceeded to file a case with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, alleging that the current ban on medical terminations was discriminative, cruel and degrading.
The Human Rights Committee agreed with Amanda’s claim, ruling that her wellbeing was put at great risk by her entire ordeal. The added their belief that Amanda should be compensated for the government’s inability to provide abortions “in the familiar environment of her own country and under the care of health professionals whom she knew and trusted.”
The committee found in Amanda’s favour, noting that her wellbeing was endangered by the law. They found that Amanda should be compensated for the State’s failure to allow her an abortion “in the familiar environment of her own country and under the care of health professionals whom she knew and trusted.”
The council added that they recommend a change of laws in Ireland to allow women to access“effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland, and take measures to ensure that healthcare providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions.”