A YOUNG refugee, who was raped during a conflict in her native
land, was denied an abortion in Ireland despite the agreement by a
panel of experts that she was suicidal.
The woman, described as "extremely vulnerable and fragile",
discovered that she was pregnant during a health examination some
weeks after arriving in the Republic seeking asylum. Her identity
and nationality cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, but it is
believed that she is in her late teens.
She could have been eligible for the procedure, in the first
publicly known test of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act,
which came into force in January, after a referendum in 2013.
Ireland's Heath Service Executive (HSE) failed to inform her of her
rights under the new law, however. When, having been moved from one
refugee centre to another location, she finally saw a GP, she was
referred for assessment under the terms of the legislation, but it
was too late into the pregnancy.
Suicidal ideation is provided for under the country's strict
abortion laws, and she was seen by an expert panel, including a
consultant obstetrician and two psychiatrists,at the end of July.
Although agreeing about her suicidal tendencies, the obstetrician
confirmed that it was too late to abort the foetus, as the mother
was 25 weeks pregnant.
She was informed that the only way forward, owing to the likely
viability of the foetus, was to undergo a Caesarean section. She
then went on a hunger and thirst strike, stating through an
interpreter that she no longer wanted to live.
She was treated with steroids to assist the baby's lung
functions, and the HSE obtained a court order allowing her to be
When the HSE returned to court with a care plan, her legal team
indicated that she had by then agreed to undergo the Caesarean
section. Her child, whom she refuses to see, is in an incubator,
and will probably enter state care. The mother, who is reportedly
in a very distressed condition, is being treated in an HSE medical
The Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, who has pledged
that all abortion cases referred under the new Act will be closely
monitored, said that the existing legislation was all that could
possibly have been done constitutionally.
The Health Minister, Dr Leo Varadkar, said that there would be
an inquiry into the circumstances of the case, and that he would
welcome it. He intimated that some of the commentary emerging from
the case might not be correct.
"I would encourage people to await the outcome of the HSE report
before jumping to conclusions. . . I would again ask people to
remember that we are talking about a woman and a child who need
care and compassion," he said.