Forthcoming paper: Mellet v Ireland & abortion law reform

I have a new paper forthcoming (either later this year or early next year) in the Medical Law Review: “Fatal Foetal Abnormality, Irish Constitutional Law, and Mellet v Ireland”.

The paper, which is really an extended case commentary, considers the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision in Amanda Jane Mellet v Ireland, handed down earlier this summer. The decision was ostensibly about the human rights implications of criminalising abortion in situations of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, however in this paper I question whether the reasoning in the case is limited to that circumstance, and argue that the underpinning harms identified as constituting violations of the ICCPR (including inhuman and degrading treatment) actually arise across the spectrum of abortion criminalisation in Ireland. Read this way, Mellet illustrates the rights-based need for comprehensive abortion law reform, and not only for reform in respect of FFAs.

I have not made a copy publicly available at present (pending licence agreement), but anyone who wants a copy is free to email me on and I will send it on. Here is the abstract:

Under the Irish Constitution abortion is available only where the life of the pregnant woman is at risk. The provision has long been criticized for failing to respect women’s autonomy, and in Mellet v Ireland the UN Human Rights Committee found that Amanda Jane Mellet, who traveled to Liverpool to access abortion following a finding that her foetus suffered a fatal abnormality, had suffered a violation of her rights under the ICCPR. In this commentary I demonstrate the value of Mellet when compared to the possible legal findings in such circumstances under both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, and argue that the findings are not restricted to cases of fatal foetal abnormality. Rather, the Committee’s decision illustrates the suffering that all women in Ireland who travel to access abortion experience, arguably constituting a violation of their right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. On that reading, Mellet signifies the need to implement a comprehensive rethink of Irish abortion law including, but going beyond, access to abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

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