Fatal Foetal Abnormality, Irish Constitutional Law, and Mellet v Ireland

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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.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591–607
JournalMedical Law Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • abortion, Irish constitution, International human rights law, The 8th Amendment