By Raihan Rahman Rafid
Ireland, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation that maintains the strictest laws on abortion in the 28-nations of EU, has been called on by the UN Human Rights Committee constituting experts from 17 nations to “amend” its abortion laws, and if necessary its constitution as well, to protect patients and health workers who even fear to discuss on issue related to termination of pregnancy.
The 29-page report from the Geneva-based committee accepted a complaint filed by Amanda Mellet, a Dublin woman who was denied abortion in Ireland after her doctor informed her during 21st week of pregnancy, that her fetus had congenital defects and would die either in the womb or shortly after birth. To terminate the pregnancy, she paid her own way to Britain and returned to Ireland 12 hours after the procedure because she could not afford to stay any much longer. The UN experts found that Ms. Mellett should have been able to abort the fatally ill fetus in Ireland “under the care of health professionals whom she knew and trusted”.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 (Act 35 of 2013) is an act of the Oireachtas which defines the circumstances and processes within which abortion in Ireland can be legally performed. Having passed both Houses of the Oireachtas in July 2013, it was signed into law on 30 July by Michael D. Higgins, the President of Ireland and came into force on January 1, 2014. In general, abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland except where the pregnancy presents a real and substantiated risk to the mother, including the risk of suicide. However the law allows women to travel to another country for operating the abortion. Between January 1980 and December 2015, at least 166,951 women and girls traveled from the Republic of Ireland to access abortion services in the neighbor country England. The law even allows health workers to give patients some information about abortions, but they face punishment if they are perceived to be promoting the termination of a pregnancy, including in the case of a defected fetus
Laws should be strict and enforced , but when you can commit a “crime” by going to another country, does the law remain logical any longer ? If we look at the statistics of Ireland’s Abortion , we can see how many pregnant women had moved to another country just to have a surgery done to abort their child. So in Ireland people who had the money could commit ‘the crime’ by traveling to some other place, and those who were not affluent enough, suffered silently. When laws of a county just causes its citizens suffering, can’t they be referred simply as black law?
Like many others, Amanda Mellet had to go through so much of hassel and mental trauma just to have her defected fetus removed from her womb. If she was allowed it to be done in her own country considering her condition and that the child was more likely to die after its birth, the sufferings would be lesser.
Thus, Laws when made should be liberal and adaptable to the society in a way that people can accept it and abide by it. It shouldn’t be like the ones for which people would find alternatives way to do something.
Raihan Rahman Rafid is a first year Law student at University of Dhaka; He is involved in Debating, Blogging, Photography, Media and Social activism. He can be reached at [email protected]