Harris offers "personal apology" to woman forced to travel for abortion

The government has offered a settlement of €30,000 after a UN Committee found the woman’s rights were breached by Irish abortion legislation

Harris offers "personal apology" to woman forced to travel for abortion

Health Minister Simon Harris talking to the media in Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

A woman who successfully took a case to the United Nations over Ireland's abortion laws has been offered a settlement of €30,000 by the state.

The Minster for Health, Simon Harris last night met with Amanda Mellet and her husband to inform them of the government’s response to the UN committee - due to be submitted next week.

Ms Mellet has also been offered “timely access” to appropriate state counselling and psychological services.

In June of this year, the UN committee found that Ms Mellet had suffered “discrimination and anguish” after she was left with no option but to travel outside the state for a termination.

She travelled to the UK for an abortion after her baby was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality in November 2011.

The committee held that the state must make full reparations to Ms Mellet and undertake law reform measures to ensure other couples are not faced with the same decision in the future.

Minster Harris said he found Ms Mellet’s situation “deeply upsetting” and confirmed he discussed the government’s response in his meeting with the couple.

The government’s submission to the committee will outline its approach to any potential change in Ireland’s abortion laws - including the ongoing discussions at the Citizens’ Assembly which will lead to further Dáil debate on the future of the Eight Amendment.

Minster Harris said the current legal framework “does not in any way preclude” doctors from providing women with all the necessary health information to “make an informed decision about her pregnancy.”

However, he has asked Department of Health officials to review the legal act governing the information doctors can provide regarding termination services outside the state.

Ms Mellet’s lawyer, Leah Hoctor the regional director for europe at the Centre for Reproductive Rights, said the state must now reform its abortion laws.

“Women’s health and well-being are put in jeopardy when they have to travel to another country for abortion services," she said.

"To fully comply with the UN ruling and repair the wrongs Ms Mellet experienced, the Government must ensure effective law reform takes place so that no more women suffer.”

The National Women’s Council of Ireland said the offer of compensation is, “an admission that the Government is failing women in Ireland in a horrendous manner and subjecting them to what is now recognised as inhumane and degrading treatment.”

The council has called on the government to announce a date for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment from the constitution.

Ms Mellet said a “personal apology” offered to her by Minister Harris will go, “a long way towards closure for what was the most painful chapter of my life.”

“I am hopeful that ensuring the legal changes outlined by the UN Committee will now be the Government’s next step,” she said.

“I personally will not feel able to move on while knowing that other women continue to have to leave this country to access reproductive health services.”

Gerry Edwards, a spokesperson for Terminations for Medical Reasons (TFMR) Ireland called it "preposterous" to suggest the government will need six months to debate the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly and make recommendations to cabinet.

“There is no appreciation of the urgency with which this solution is required by all of the women and their families who continue to suffer these tragedies and have their own human rights violated on a daily basis,” he said.

“Neither the Taoiseach nor any member of Dáil Éireann gets to press pause on their responsibilities to us as Citizens or their obligations to uphold International Human Rights simply because they have established an independent Assembly.”