‘The Ashes Were Unexpectedly Delivered To Her Three Weeks Later By Courier’

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UN logo; Amanda Mellet and her husband James Burke

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner writes:

A woman in Ireland [Amanda Mellet] who was forced to choose between carrying her foetus to term, knowing it would not survive, or seeking an abortion abroad was subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as a result of Ireland’s legal prohibition of abortion, UN experts have found.

The independent experts, from the Geneva-based Human Rights Committee, issued their findings after considering a complaint by the woman, AM, who was told in November 2011 when she was in the 21st week of pregnancy that her foetus had congenital defects, which meant it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

This meant she had to choose “between continuing her non-viable pregnancy or travelling to another country while carrying a dying foetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered,” the Committee said.

AM decided to travel to the UK for a termination and returned 12 hours after the procedure as she could not afford to stay longer. The UK hospital did not provide any options regarding the foetus’s remains and she had to leave them behind. The ashes were unexpectedly delivered to her three weeks later by courier.

In Ireland, she was denied the bereavement counselling and medical care available to women who miscarry. Such differential treatment, the Committee noted, failed to take into account her medical needs and socio-economic circumstances and constituted discrimination.

“Many of the negative experiences she went through could have been avoided if (she) had not been prohibited from terminating her pregnancy in the familiar environment of her own country and under the care of health professionals whom she knew and trusted,” the Committee wrote in its findings.

The Committee said that, in addition to the shame and stigma associated with the criminalization of abortion of a fatally ill foetus, AM’s suffering was aggravated by the obstacles she faced in getting information about the appropriate medical options.

Ireland’s Abortion Information Act allows healthcare providers to give patients information about abortion, including the circumstances under which abortion services can be available in Ireland or overseas.

But under the law they are prohibited from, and could be sanctioned for, behaviour that could be interpreted as advocating or promoting the termination of pregnancy. This, according to the Committee, has a chilling effect on health-care providers, who struggle to distinguish “supporting” a woman who has decided to terminate a pregnancy from “advocating” or “promoting” abortion.

Ireland, which is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), is obliged to provide AM with an effective remedy, including adequate compensation and psychological treatment she may need, the Committee said. Ireland is also obliged to prevent similar violations from occurring.

To this end, the State party 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, and take measures to ensure that health-care providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions,” the Committee’s findings said.

In its observations to the Committee on AM’s claims, Ireland said that the country’s constitutional and legislative framework reflected “the nuanced and proportionate approach to the considered views of the Irish Electorate on the profound moral question of the extent to which the right to life of the foetus should be protected and balanced against the rights of the woman.”

The Human Rights Committee considered this case under the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR Covenant which gives the Committee competence to examine individual complaints.

Read the UN’s findings in full here

Related: Ireland abortion laws breach human rights, rules UN (The Times Ireland edition)

Previously: Another Victory For ‘Balance’

‘It’s A Sensitive Issue That Must Be Teased Out Very Carefully’

Fresh Claims Against Ronan Mullen

Pic: Jyllands-Posten International

54 thoughts on “‘The Ashes Were Unexpectedly Delivered To Her Three Weeks Later By Courier’

  1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

    God love her. As I’ve said before here, I had a baby (I’m not going to call it a foetus, as that’s not how I thought about it) that had a FFA as well, but lucky for me it died in utero, so I didn’t have to make that choice. I couldn’t even countenance thinking about it then, and still don’t like thinking about it. I’m morally conflicted: would I have gone for an abortion? Hmm. I don’t think I could have. But I absolutely support her right to have done so and think what happened was abominable.
    You cannot understand how awful it is until you hear that news, and I will NOT have people telling me how I should react, or how she should have reacted. It’s nobody’s business but the parents’, and for people to tell others how to react or what they should do in that circumstance is just plain wrong.

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      I’m sorry to hear that.

      But you are bang on – it’s her decision and hers alone. Awful that women have to go through this because some people do not have the humanity to appreciate what this might be like.

    2. The Real Jane

      Really sorry to hear about your experience. I can’t imagine what it must be like to potentially face such a decision.

      What happened to this woman is an unbelievable affront to decency and humanity. This is what happens when you make the life of a mother equal to the life of the unborn. It’s just disgusting.

    3. Daisy Chainsaw

      Andyourpointisexactly, you would have made the right choice for you. When it comes to women dealing with the awful diagnosis of FFA, there is no “wrong” choice. If a woman decides to continue her pregnancy to term, then every accomodation should be made for that and treat her with the dignity and compassion she deserves. It’s upsetting and maddening that the same dignity and compassion can’t be afforded to women who don’t want to go to term. They can join the other 11 women on the boat/plane travelling that day for an abortion because of hypocrisy and misogyny.

  2. newsjustin

    The UN decision would appear to put no value on the right to life of a foetus. That’s one way of looking at things. But it’s not the only way of looking at things, clearly. The Irish response that the Irish legislative environment reflects “the nuanced and proportionate approach to the considered views of the Irish Electorate on the profound moral question of the extent to which the right to life of the foetus should be protected and balanced against the rights of the woman.” is something that the UN Committee try to sweep aside.

    Andyourpointisexactly – I’ll be criticised for raising this but…your view that “It’s nobody’s business but the parents’” would seem to clash with your view of your baby as, naturally enough, a baby. Ending a baby’s life is clearly not a private matter to be decided between the parents. It’s simply illegal, for obvious reasons.

    1. The Real Jane

      *“the nuanced and proportionate approach to the considered views of the Irish Electorate on the profound moral question of the extent to which the right to life of the foetus should be protected and balanced against the rights of the woman.”*

      Well aren’t you lucky, Justin, that you can afford to be all angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin about this when your life isn’t the one being balanced with the rights of a foetus.

    2. Nigel

      As far as I can tell it wasn’t within the remit of the UNHRO to fix a quantum on any life involved in the case as described but to assess the treatment of the woman involved. Since from a clinical point of view it takes for granted that abortion is an appropriate medical treatment for FFA, you should probably articulate why it isn’t and why a woman should be denied the choice of whether or not to carry such a fetus to term and why a regime that denies that choice is NOT inhumane and cruel, and what these ‘obvious reasons’ for denying that choice in this situation are. Since only a few people would deny that this is a tragedy and a terrible situation t be in, it’s hard to to argue that no value is placed on the life of the fetus in these conditions. So can you tell me why, specifically, medical procedures available elsewhere should be denied to Irish woman in this situations?

      1. newsjustin

        Nigel, your comments would appear reasonable but, in fact, simply repeat the Committee’s key assumption – that the foetus has no right to life. An assumption that isn’t universally shared and is entirely a odds with Irish legislation.

        Free from having to consider the right to life of the foetus, the Committee can, quite reasonably, assess the failings in patent care.

        A woman should be, and is in Ireland, denied the choice of ending the life of the foetus because the foetus has a right to its life – however short and compromised that may be.

        I don’t agree with your point that “Since only a few people would deny that this is a tragedy and a terrible situation t be in, it’s hard to to argue that no value is placed on the life of the fetus in these conditions.” Firstly, I think everyone would agree this is a terrible situation. Secondly, I don’t think feeling bad about aborting the foetus is akin to actually affirming it’s right to life.

        TLDR – this particular procedure should be denied because it ends the life of a human foetus which does have a right to life.

        1. Nigel

          TLDR – this particular procedure should be denied because it ends the life of a human foetus which does have a right to life.

          So you are asserting a view that the right to life of of a non-viable fetus supersedes the right of the mother to make medical decisions about her own life and health. I would like to see you justify that view without reference to Irish legislation, since we already know that that legislation is, particularly since you are championing the right to life of something that, in many of these situations, is already deceased.

          1. newsjustin

            If that something was already deceased this would not be a matter of debate.

            The right to life of a foetus is equal to (it does not supercede) the right to life of the mother. The right to life of a human foetus does supercede the mother’s right to abort her pregnancy. It is justified because of the importance of affirming the right to life of all our fellow humans.

          2. Nigel

            I’m sorry it’s hard to see how denying treatment to a mother in the event of FFA is not, in fact, prioritising the life of that fetus. If the mother is going to survive but the fetus is not, to refuse or deny medical procedures for the good of the health and life of the mother is to place the non-viable fetus above the mother in terms of importance. Anything else is to refuse to accept medical reality.

    3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      What a surprise that you are here telling women what to do yet again.

      “Ending a baby’s life is clearly not a private matter to be decided between the parents.”

      How is it clearly not the parents choice? It is a private matter and none of your business at all. It’s not my business either what people decide to do but they deserve the choice to do whatever they wish.

      “It’s simply illegal, for obvious reasons” It’s not even completely illegal in Ireland. And it’s not illegal in many many countries around the world who respect women more than they respect the flimsy arguments you come up with repeatedly in every single post on abortion here.

      Thankfully your time is coming to an end. There is momentum and it will change and women will have the rights they deserve.

      1. newsjustin

        Hi Don. Yes. Here I am again discussing abortion. I must be only one who comments on every…………………..oh wait, there’s you. And the other regulars. Don’t be so tetchy about people who want to debate the issue.

        “How is it clearly not the parents choice?”
        Because of the right to life of the human foetus. It’s a right affirmed in our Constitution – the ultimate public document.

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Repeating “right to life” is not a debate, it’s just stating your position over and over and over and over again.

          You hold the constitution up as some great public document set in stone. But it has been altered before and will be again. Until then, you are happy to continue putting people through similar experiences. How very human of you.

          1. newsjustin

            Of course it can be amended. That’s not the discussion we were having. You said aborting a foetus was an entirely private matter, I explained how it wasn’t.

          2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Which is circular and pointless.

            Constitution says – constitution amended – constitution doesn’t say – abortion fine

            What else do you have that says this is not a private decision?

          3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I’m not circling the wrong argument. The constitution is your entire argument it seems unless you have something else to prove this is not a private decision?

          4. newsjustin

            Why would another argument be required? The unborn child’s Rigg to life is acknowledged and confirmed by the premier legal document in the state. Abortion is prohibited, except in exceptional circumstances, by legislation.

            Does this not indicate to you that society takes an interest in the right o life of foetuses? That it places value on that right? And therefore a couple, or mother, may not simply regard terminating the right to life of that unborn child as a purely private matter.

            As with a lot of things, you may not like it, but that’s the status quo.

          5. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            The polls indicate that public support and understanding has changed. I would expect that Ireland’s constitution will also change soon. Then your argument wouldn’t stand. I would like to know what other arguments you have other than an amendable document that will respond to changing public opinion – even if it is only for FFA.

          6. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            That is not what I am asking news. Please answer my question which is what other argument do you have?

          7. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Nothing? Nothing at all?

            So if the constitution is changed, you’ll support it fully because it is the ultimate public document. Good to know!

          8. newsjustin

            Nothing apart from our agreement that society has an interest in the right to life of people, including the unborn, and has recognised it in the constitution, no.

            Of course I’ll support it. And I’ll abide by it. Like I said, we may not like things, but that doesn’t make it not so. One needs to be mature about these things Don.

          1. newsjustin

            Clampers. Of course it can be amended. I pointed to the Constitution because the mention of the right to life makes any decision on abortion not just a discrete, private matter. As far as the Constitution is concerned there are two lives to be considered. Therefore one of those lives (the mother….and the father) cannot unilaterally agree to end the life of the other.

          2. Daisy Chainsaw

            An amendment was put in causing all this mess of women and girls bringing an alphabet of court cases because the 8th amendment has been a complete clusterfupp from the word go. Women have been killed by this amendment, they’ve been violated and mutilated because of it and reduced to status of container because of it

            The day we get rid of it, I will party hardy.

    4. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      It doesn’t clash. I wouldn’t choose to have an abortion, but I have no issue with those who do in such a case.
      I realise it’s illegal. That’s a fact. I wish it weren’t, though.

  3. MoyestWithExcitement

    “The Irish response that the Irish legislative environment reflects……..is something that the UN Committee try to sweep aside.”

    Yes.
    UN; ‘Your treatment of women is inhumane’
    Irish govt; ‘Our opinions on that are “nuanced”‘
    UN; ‘Oh, ok then. I guess it isn’t inhumane.’

    1. newsjustin

      Ireland’s law seeks to affirm the right to life of a mother and the right to life of the unborn.

      Clearly, if one believes that a human foetus has no right to life, you’ll see this as unjust – as the UN have done.

      So this decision is an entirely sensible, measured and reasonable one………..as long as one is convinced that a human foetus has no right to life. I understand that some people believe that. But many don’t. At the moment, Ireland’s legislation reflects the thinking of the latter.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        “Clearly, if one believes that a human foetus has no right to life,”

        Or, OR, if I one believes the right to life of the mother *supercedes* the right to life of the foetus. You, again, are trying to paint pro choice folks as heartless. Emotive spin and character assassination seems to be the fulcrum of you’re argument. Why? Because you have no rationale or objective facts.

        1. newsjustin

          I’m not trying to paint anyone. I’m just trying to explain why there can be a range of views on this topic – in fairly non-emotive language I think.

          You have a general point re “supercedes” there Moyest. But clearly this was not the case in this particular case.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            “I’m not trying to paint anyone.”

            Yeah you are. Do you not remember our conversation where you repeated the phrase “destroyed their baby” 3 or 4 times and eventually literally asked me to use the word destroy because I didn’t take the bait those 3 or 4 times? Here you have made up an opinion in your own head ‘a foetus has no right to life’ and attributed it to the pro choices even though none of them actually think that. Spin and character assassination is your entire game.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Thanks for the link.

            “So Moyest, can you at least acknowledge that abortion is the destruction of a foetus?”

            There’s you literally asking me to use the word, or derivative of, ‘destroy’.

          3. newsjustin

            I thought I said “destroyed their baby”? That’s what you claimed.

            I just used the term destroy again above. That’s the point of an abortion isn’t it Moyest? To destroy an embryo/foetus so that the pregnancy ends and a baby won’t emerge after 9 months? What am I missing here Moyest?

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            It’s the word ‘destroy’ that’s important here. I said ‘end the life of’ which also works as would ‘terminate’ or ‘abort’. You *insist* on using the word ‘destroy’ though. You are so determined that *that* word be used that you litetally ask me to use it after not taking your bait 4 times. That is because you *know* it’s emotive and inflammatory and fits in with your ‘abortion is murder’ narrative. This is because you have no rationale nor facts.

          5. newsjustin

            Destroy/terminate/abort/end the life of, I use them interchangeably. I find it interesting that you’re so unwilling to accept the reality of abortion. Perhaps you know, deep down, that it’s wrong.

          6. MoyestWithExcitement

            Except, you ASKED me to use the word ‘destroy’ despite the fact I used a phrase or word with the same meaning on the context of abortion 4 times. that is because spin us all you have.

          7. newsjustin

            Moyest. Take a look at the thread in the February article. You will see that you are the first to query terminology by querying my use of the word “destroy” (you put it in little quotes too).

            In short, you started it. Because you are uncomfortable with the reality of abortion.

          8. MoyestWithExcitement

            No I’m just pointing out your deliberate use of inflammatory language because emotive spin is your whole argument.

      2. Nigel

        As long as you are convinced that a woman should have no say in her treatment in the event of a non-viable fetus, one which is either already dead or unlikely to survive, then you think that the life and health of a dead or dying fetus trumps the life and health of a mother who has to deal with having such a fetus inside her and I would very much like to see you articulate why you think this is so.

        1. ahjayzis

          They never explain their thinking, don’t bother. They propound it in it’s shallowest form, wrapped up in love and understanding needed for the mother – it’s just that love and understanding will extend to strapping her to a guerney to exercise proprietary control over what happens inside her body if she disagrees with what they want to do to her. Love them both heart heart ex ex ex smiley face.

      3. Clampers Outside!

        “Ireland’s law seeks to affirm the right to life of a mother and the right to life of the unborn”

        Ireland’s law is unworkable and needs fixing. And we need to stop exporting the responsibility of abortion, plain and simple.

  4. classter

    The UN’s ‘opinion’ on this is a red herring. It won’t sway anybody’s minds. If you believe abortion is the murder of a baby, you’ll still believe that & if you believe that a foetus (especially a dying foetus) deserves less protection that a sentient adult human, you will still believe that.

    All it will achieve, is cause some to bristle at intrusion into our affairs by outside bodies on an issue which, lie it or not, is the subject of a legitimate debate.

    This is an awful story & this woman, like all women, should have the right to choose. We should seek to have this enshrined in our law & forget about the UN’s thoughts on this.

    1. ahjayzis

      Outside bodies we signed up to of our own accord?

      We don’t, as a state, practice what we preach. We’ll ratify every human rights move, happily sign up to human rights bodies, but when we’re called out on our sectarian education system or the way we treat pregnant women like half a person on par with a cell cluster it’s “fupp off Johnny Foreigner and keep your nose out of Holy Catholic Ireland”.

      1. classter

        Fine but I do not think that the UN has a right to tell us what our law should say about abortion.

        I think we who support choice should make it happen & stop waiting for an outside body to save us.

        1. Lorcan Nagle

          A number of the recent UN and EU rulings about abortion came about as a direct result of lobbying from Irish activists, so this is Irish people who support choice making it happen, and doing so on both the national and international front.

    2. Lorcan Nagle

      UN and EU rulings do carry some weight though. Obviously they can’t change anything until the 8th is repealed, but they will influence the post-repeal legislation.

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