The Guardian (U.K.)
, March 13, 2014
Woman challenges Ireland's abortion laws at UN
By Henry McDonald
An Irish woman who claims to have been demeaned by doctors when she asked for an emergency abortion is to take her case against the Republic to the United Nations.
Siobhán Whelan said she was made feel as if it "was illegal" to ask Irish medical staff if she could have the option of an abortion after learning in September 2009 that her baby would die.
On Thursday, backed by the New York-based Centre For Reproductive Rights, Whelan became the second Irish woman to file a challenge at the UN against the ban on abortions for medical reasons.
The centre has filed a petition with the UN human rights committee to hold Ireland accountable for subjecting Whelan to inhuman and degrading treatment, interfering with her privacy and discrimination on the basis of her gender.
The committee cannot impose a sanction on Ireland but the centre hopes to keep global pressure on its legislators.
Although limited abortion was introduced in the Republic last year, women cannot get terminations in Irish hospitals if they discover they are suffering from fatal foetal abnormalities when pregnant.
After about 21 weeks into her pregnancy Whelan was told by medics at Dublin's National Maternity hospital that her baby had a fatal anomaly, called Trisomy 13.
She said one doctor told her she would be have been offered a termination in another jurisdiction, but that this was not possible in Ireland.
Whelan said another doctor handed her a report of the scan suggesting she would need it if she decided to travel overseas to have a termination.
But she claimed that staff did not do anything to enable her to contact a UK hospital and did not explain what a termination entailed. Additionally, the medics never mentioned what support she could expect post-diagnosis, she said.
Whelan decided that ending the pregnancy was the best choice for her and her family. She added that her husband had to arrange for time off work and for childcare, as well as find the necessary funds to pay for travel, accommodation and the procedure at the Fetal Assessment Centre at Liverpool Women's hospital.
Johanna Westeson, regional director for Europe at the Centre For Reproductive Rights, said: "Ireland's harsh policies made Siobhán fearful to even ask about her options and allowed her healthcare providers to give up on her once she made the decision to end her pregnancy. The UN human rights committee should act swiftly and call on Ireland to expand woman's access to abortion care as demanded under human rights law."
Whelan said on Thursday: "The Irish doctors made me feel like it was illegal to discuss the option of termination for fear of having the door slammed in my face or of not receiving any help whatsoever.
"I will never understand
why I had to pack my bags and leave Ireland so I could access the medical care
I needed. It is truly demeaning and I will never forget it."
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