Statement from Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD, regarding the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the case of Ms Amanda Mellet
Ms Mellet and her husband kindly agreed to my request to meet last evening to give me an opportunity to inform them of substance of our response to the UN Committee in advance of our formal submission.
At this meeting I again expressed my own personal view of Ms Mellet’s case, a view I have voiced previously in Dail Eireann. When I read the report from the UNHR Committee I found the experience she went through deeply upsetting. Indeed, I have subsequently met with other families who have been through the trauma of knowing their baby will not survive and made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy abroad and I have been very moved on hearing of their experiences.
In their conclusion of Ms Mellet’s case, the UNHR Committee requested the State to amend its law on termination of pregnancy, to ensure that health-care providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services, and to provide Ms Mellet with adequate compensation and to make available to her any psychological treatment she requires.
I informed Ms Mellet that our response to the UN Committee sets out the current legislative position in Ireland for termination of pregnancy where the unborn is protected by Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. The Government has established a Citizen’s Assembly, in line with its Programme for Partnership Government commitment to consider a number of matters including constitutional reform. Under the Assembly’s terms of reference they are directed to first consider the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Article 40.3.3) and their conclusions on the matter will be submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas for further debate by Parliament.
The Regulation of Information (Services outside the State for Terminations of Pregnancy) Act 1995 does not in any way preclude health professionals from giving full information to a woman with regard to her state of health, and all the information necessary to enable her to make an informed decision about her pregnancy. However I have asked my Department to review the 1995 Act to determine if the provisions need to be strengthened or clarified.
In relation to health services, the Health Service Executive published the National Standards for Bereavement Care following Pregnancy Loss and Perinatal Death in August this year. The purpose of the standards is to enhance bereavement care services for parents who experience a pregnancy loss or perinatal death. These standards cover all pregnancy loss situations from early pregnancy loss to perinatal death, as well as situations where there is a diagnosis of foetal anomaly that will be life limiting or may be fatal. These services are available to all parents who have suffered bereavement irrespective of when the bereavement occurred.
With regard to measures directly relating to Ms Mellet in acknowledgement of the Committee’s views, the State has offered Ms Mellet an ex gratia sum of €30,000.
I will also direct the Health Service Executive to ensure that Ms Mellet will have timely access to all appropriate psychological services provided by the Health Service Executive.
Ms Mellet and her husband were gracious in their response.
Decisions of UN Treaty Mechanism Bodies in complaints involving Ireland
Individual Complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee – 2017 – Whelan v Ireland
Individual Complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee – 2016 – Mellet v Ireland
About United Nations Treaty Monitoring Bodies