State to pay €30k compensation to woman forced to travel for abortion

The Government has agreed to pay a woman who was forced to travel to Britain for an abortion after a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis €30,000 in compensation for psychological trauma, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Evelyn Ring.

The settlement with Wexford woman Siobhan Whelan - only the second ever in Irish history after a similar payment to Amanda Mellet - emerged on Tuesday night after Ms Whelan took her case to the United Nations human rights committee.

In a statement before the cross-party Oireachtas abortion committee returns Wednesday to continuing debating Ireland's abortion laws, Ms Whelan said after a 2010 scan revealed her unborn son had a congenital brain malformation, she sought medical help in Ireland.

However, in a situation the UN human rights committee condemned as cruel, inhumane and degrading, she was offered no assistance and instead had to travel to Liverpool for an abortion.

In response to the UN body's ruling, Ms Whelan has been told in recent days she will receive €30,000 in compensation from the State, with the move expected to be announced by Government this morning.

The case of Ms Whelan follows that of Amanda Mellet earlier this year, with both women represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights which is appearing before the Oireachtas eighth amendment committee on Wednesday.

The cases are likely to lead to further calls for abortion law reforms. However, pro-life experts are continuing to call on the committee not to change the existing legislation, with a second pro-life expert due to attend the group last night cancelling his meeting.

In a five-page letter seen by the Irish Examiner and sent before committee chair and Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone will repeat her call for more pro-life witnesses to balance the group's deliberations, North Carolina based Prof Marty McCaffrey claimed the committee is biased and a "kangaroo court".

"I will not partake in a charade which has already reached its preordained conclusion. It is difficult not to conclude this is a 'kangaroo court'," Prof McCaffrey, who was recommended to the committee by Fine Gael senator Michelle Mulherin, said.

Prof McCaffrey said he has "watched with interest and not a little concern" the committee's work to date and said it is "horrific" pregnancies involving fatal foetal abnormalities do not go to full-term because of what he described as "a self-fulfilling prophecy".

He said while the vast majority of witnesses to date have been pro-choice, and that babies with anencephaly - a fatal condition where a child is missing part of their brain or head - have shortened lives, they "are born alive".

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