U.N. Rules Ireland's Abortion Ban 'Cruel and Inhuman'

Abortion
A pro-life campaigner displays a plastic doll representing a 12 week old fetus as she stands outside the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast, April 7. The U.N. Human Rights Committee has found that Ireland's law violates the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Charles McQuillan/Getty

Ireland's ban on abortion subjected a woman carrying a fetus with a fatal abnormality to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the United Nations has found.

It called for the strict prohibition to be reversed, including reforming the right to life of the unborn in the constitution if necessary, to allow women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy safely.

The 29-page report from the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Committee accepted a complaint filed by Amanda Mellet, a Dublin woman who was denied a 2011 abortion in Ireland after her doctor informed her that her fetus had a fatal heart defect and could not survive outside the womb.

Ireland permits abortions only in cases where the woman's own life is endangered by continued pregnancy. Its ban on abortion in all other circumstances requires women to carry a medically doomed fetus to full term in Ireland or travel abroad for abortions, usually to England, where an estimated 5,000 Irish citizens have abortions annually.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee, constituting experts from 17 nations, found that Ireland's law violates the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It called on Ireland to provide "timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination."

The report carries no legal power to compel change from Ireland, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation that maintains among the strictest laws on abortion in the 28-nation EU.

U.N. Rules Ireland's Abortion Ban 'Cruel and Inhuman' | World