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Abortion ban in Ireland cruel, discriminatory, degrading: UN

A protestor displays a banner against Ireland's abortion laws during a march against Government austerity measures in Dublin, Ireland on November 24, 2012.
A protestor displays a banner against Ireland's abortion laws during a march against Government austerity measures in Dublin, Ireland on November 24, 2012. BARRY CRONIN/AFP/Getty Images

DUBLIN – U.N. human rights experts ruled Thursday that Ireland’s abortion ban subjects women to discriminatory, cruel and degrading treatment and should be ended for cases involving fatal fetal abnormalities.

The 29-page report from the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Committee accepted a complaint filed by Amanda Mellet, a Dublin woman who was denied a 2011 abortion in Ireland after her doctor informed her that her fetus had a fatal heart defect and could not survive outside the womb.

Ireland permits abortions only in cases where the woman’s own life is endangered by continued pregnancy. Its ban on abortion in all other circumstances requires women to carry a medically doomed fetus to full term in Ireland or travel abroad for abortions, usually to England, where an estimated 5,000 Irish citizens have abortions annually.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee, constituting experts from 17 nations, found that Ireland’s law violates the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It called on Ireland to provide “timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination.”

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The report carries no legal power to compel change from Ireland, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation that maintains the strictest laws on abortion in the 28-nation EU.

Associated Press reporter Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this story.

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