Irish girl, 17, wins right to go to England for abortion

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An Irish court has ruled in favour of a teenage girl seeking legal permission to travel to England to abort her terminally ill foetus.

The 17-year-old, who is four months' pregnant, opted for an abortion after discovering that the foetus suffered from a brain condition which meant that it could live for at most three days after birth.

But health authorities where the girl is in care moved to prevent her travelling to England. Abortion is strictly curtailed in the Republic, though every year thousands of Irish women go to England for the procedure.

Following expedited hearings in which the authorities appointed a council to represent the unborn child, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie ruled in the Dublin High Court that there was no legal barrier to the girl, referred to as Miss D, travelling abroad for an abortion.

The judge said he "firmly and unequivocally" concluded there was no statutory or constitutional impediment preventing her from travelling for the purposes of terminating her pregnancy. He said that the case was not about abortion but was about the right to travel.

Mr Justice McKechnie complimented the teenager's "courage, integrity and maturity" in refusing to claim she was suicidal, a circumstance which in Ireland can provide grounds for an abortion.

In contrast, he criticised the health authorities who have tried to stop her going abroad, saying it was likely they had been motivated by trying to avoid having to make a public or controversial decision.

The case has attracted much attention in the Irish Republic, where abortion has been a vexed and divisive issue for decades.

Welcoming the decision, the Alliance for Choice described the decision as the correct one. But it added that it deplored the additional anxiety and stress which it said the girl had been forced to endure during the legal hearings.

The Irish Family Planning Association said that it was unacceptable that a situation persisted whereby there was no proper legal framework on abortion in Ireland.

The anti-abortion group Pro-Life Campaign said that the case highlighted the need to put in place support "so that no woman feels abortion is the only option open to her". It added that the public controversy surrounding the case was a healthy sign that people in Ireland "recognise the importance of discussing the issue openly".