In the 2016 case of Mellet v Ireland, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the Irish State had subjected Amanda Jane Mellet to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to discrimination, and to an arbitrary (and therefore unlawful) interference with her right to privacy.
In her 21st week of pregnancy, Amanda Mellet received scans at the Rotunda hospital in Dublin and was informed that her foetus had congenital heart defects. A week later, she was informed that the foetus had trisomy 18 and would die in utero or shortly after birth.
…Ms Mellet was confronted with two options: carrying to term, knowing that the foetus would most likely die inside of her, or having a termination of pregnancy in a foreign country.
Due to Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, Ms Mellet was confronted with two options: carrying to term, knowing that the foetus would most likely die inside of her, or having a termination of pregnancy in a foreign country.
For weeks after learning that her foetus was dying, Ms Mellet was tormented by the question of whether her foetus had died within her, and the fear that she would go into labour and give birth only to subject her child to suffering and watch it die. Her doctor told her that “terminations are not available in this jurisdiction. Some people in your situation may choose to travel”. The doctor did not explain what “travel” involved, but only that it had to be overseas. She did not recommend a suitable abortion provider in the UK.
Ms Mellet flew with her husband to Liverpool and received medication at the Women’s Hospital to induce labour. Still feeling weak and bleeding, she had to travel back to Dublin only 12 hours after the delivery as she and her husband could not afford to stay longer in the UK. After her return to Dublin, Ms Mellet received no aftercare at the Rotunda Hospital, although she felt that she needed bereavement counselling to cope with the loss of her pregnancy and the trauma of travelling abroad for pregnancy termination. The hospital offered counselling to couples who had suffered a spontaneous stillbirth but not to those who had chosen to terminate the pregnancy as a result of fatal foetal impairments.
…the UN Human Rights Committee found that Ireland had violated Ms Mellet’s right to privacy by interfering with her decision as to how best to cope with her non-viable pregnancy.
In addition to its finding that Ms Mellet was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment because she was denied the healthcare and bereavement support she needed in Ireland, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Ireland had violated Ms Mellet’s right to privacy by interfering with her decision as to how best to cope with her non-viable pregnancy.
The Human Rights Committee stated that ‘the balance that the State party has chosen to strike between protection of the foetus and the rights of the woman in this case cannot be justified’. The Committee highlighted that Ms Mellet’s wanted pregnancy was not viable, that the options open to her were inevitably a source of intense suffering, and that her travel abroad to terminate her pregnancy had significant negative consequences for her that could have been avoided if she had been allowed to terminate her pregnancy in Ireland.