GENEVA, Switzerland, June 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A United Nations human rights committee announced today that Ireland violated the rights of a woman who traveled to England to have an abortion.
The Irish Republic has been ordered to pay compensation to the mother, Siobhan Whelan, and to provide psychological treatment. The UN has also ordered Ireland to change its laws so that women can undergo abortions there. Currently, residents of Ireland who wish to end the lives of their unborn babies travel abroad, usually to the United Kingdom.
The UN has given Ireland six months to provide information on how it will comply with UN demands.
Whelan, now 47, was in the 20th week of a much-wanted pregnancy in 2010 when doctors at Wexford General Hospital told her that her baby had a rare congenital brain malformation. Subsequent tests revealed the baby also had Trisomy 13, or Patau syndrome, which she was told is “incompatible with life.”
According to Britain’s National Health Service, 9 of 10 babies born with Patau syndrome die within a year of birth. Five percent to 10 percent of babies born with less severe forms of the syndrome survive for more than a year.
Whelan’s obstetrician told her that in other countries she would be offered an abortion, but “obviously not in this country due to Irish law.”
Whelan and her husband decided to proactively end the life of their baby but found it “difficult” to gather information about abortion services in England and to send records to a hospital there. According to the Guardian, however, almost 25,000 Irish women traveled to the United Kingdom for abortions between 2010 and 2014.
Despite their difficulties, Whelan and her husband reached Liverpool, where they had the baby killed in utero. Three weeks later, the baby was cremated, and the ashes were sent to Whelan by courier. The overall costs (including the cremation) were €2,900
Whelan established to the satisfaction of the UN committee that she suffered a “high level of mental anguish” as a result of the “actions and omissions” of the Irish State. According to the ruling, this violated the prohibition in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
This is the second time the UN has found Ireland guilty of not killing unborn babies. In 2016, a human rights committee ruled in favor of Amanda Mellett, an Irish-American woman who claimed that traveling from Ireland to the UK to kill her disabled child resulted in great emotional and psychological distress. Mellett was awarded €30,000 in compensation.
Whelan has stated that she is pleased with the ruling. She has called for a referendum on abortion. “In taking this case [to the UN], my hope was to help bring about a change in our laws, so that when faced with the tragic news of a fatal foetal impairment women would have a choice to end the pregnancy in Ireland and not be forced to carry the pregnancy to term or to travel out of our country to access health care services like I had to,” she said.
But Tracy Harkin of Ireland’s Every Life Counts says it was appalling to see misinformation being pushed by a once-respected human rights body that now refers to babies with severe disabilities as “fatal abnormalities” or “‘incompatible with life.”
“The UN has upended all logic here, since it is abortion that is cruel, inhumane and degrading to both mother and baby,” she said in a press release sent to LifeSiteNews. “It’s clear that this UN Committee has utterly failed to keep up with progressive, modern medicine or with the research that shows that abortion causes significantly more distress and despair to women in these circumstances.”
Harkin’s own daughter, Kathleen Rose, has Trisomy 13, the condition described in this case as “incompatible with life.” Kathleen Rose is 10 years old. “Would the UN tell her, to her face, that she has no right to life?” asked Harkin. “The truth is that every baby that is diagnosed is alive and kicking and has a right to life.” She pointed out also that parents have a right to “that precious time with baby, which brings love and joy and healing.”
Harkin said research also showed that 90 percent of Irish parents continued with their pregnancies after such a diagnosis, but the voices and the needs of families were being drowned out in the clamor to legalize abortion.
Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where the mother’s life is at risk. The right to life of the unborn child is guaranteed by the Irish Constitution.