THE United Nations has found that Ireland's ban on abortion subjected a woman to discrimination as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, after she was forced to travel to Britain to obtain a termination.
Ireland’s strict abortion law is protected under the eighth amendment, which acknowledges the right to life of the unborn.
The UN report, compiled by independent experts from the organisation's human rights committee, called for Ireland’s prohibition to be reversed, including reforming the constitution if necessary.
This is something Irish pro-choice campaigners have been pushing for with the #Repealthe8th campaign, which calls for the amendment to be scrapped.
The UN findings stated that: “The State should amend its law on voluntary termination of pregnancy, including if necessary its Constitution, to ensure compliance with the Covenant, including effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland.”
It went on to add that Ireland should take measures to ensure Irish health providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion practices without fear of criminal sanctions.
The report focused on the case of Amanda Mellet, who in 2011 discovered her pregnancy was nonviable due to a fatal foetal abnormality.
Despite asking her doctors for an abortion, she was forced to choose between carrying the foetus to term in Ireland, knowing it would not survive, or travelling abroad for an abortion.
Ms Mellet chose to travel to Britain for a termination, and upon her return to Ireland was denied both the bereavement counselling and follow-up medical care that would be made available to a woman following a miscarriage.
Applauding the findings, John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Asia, said: “Today’s ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee is ground breaking for Ireland, and has far reaching global consequences.
"The prohibition, and by extension criminalization, of abortion has been found to violate human rights. It is discriminatory and subjects women to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
In a statement released following the UN announcement, Ms Mellett said: “I hope the day will soon come when women in Ireland will be able to access the health services they need in our own country, where we can be with our loved ones, with our own medical team, and where we have our own familiar bed to go home and cry in.
“Subjecting women to so much additional pain and trauma simply must not continue.”
Speaking to The Irish Post, Mara Clarke from the Abortion Support Network, a charity which helps Irish women to travel to Britain for abortions, said: "This ruling is a excellent step towards ensuring that all women in Ireland have access to safe, legal abortions in their own country. It's vindication for Amanda Mellet and also for Termination for Medical Reasons and Amnesty Ireland who have been campaigning for abortion in Ireland in these cases.
"That Ireland punishes women and couples whose much wanted pregnancies are diagnosed with fatal foetal anomalies is nothing short of barbaric and it comes as no surprise that the UN agrees.
"Let's hope the Irish government ends its emotional and financial punishment of people who chose to terminate non viable pregnancies by allowing them to do so at home, without having to undertake the emotional and financial hardship of travelling to another country for medical care."