Ireland's refusal to provide a safe abortion to a suicidal rape victim is a national shame

Under the country's strict laws, vulnerable women are having their lives destroyed

Share

When news broke that babies had been dumped in a septic tank, we thought Ireland had hit a new low. But perhaps we could console ourselves that it was a long time ago and maybe things had changed —  surely standards of care could not fall any lower? Sadly they could, and it is happening right now.

The news that a young migrant woman has been forced to give birth after being raped has caused global outrage.

The details are still unclear, but we do know that the woman sought to access an abortion in Ireland under section 9 of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (PLDPA), fearing that she would commit suicide.

This claim was assessed by a panel of three experts, two of which were psychiatrists. Both certified her as eligible for an abortion based on her risk of suicide, but the third panelist, an obstetrician, recommended that she undergo a caesarean section. The PLDPA recommends that all "practicable" measures are taken to preserve the life of the "unborn", and it seems that the obstetrician judged a caesarean would be "practicable".

The woman did not agree and went on hunger strike to protest her right to an abortion. Ireland's NHS, the Health Service Executive (HSE), went to court to get an order to force her to take fluids to avoid harm to herself or the foetus.

She then had the caesarean, as the court was not going to concede to her request for an abortion, and the only other available option was to continue the pregnancy further. The baby was then delivered at 25 weeks gestation, alive, but with a high likelihood of significant disabilities.

This shocking case of forced birth is an example of abuse of a vulnerable adult while in state care. As well as the 16 week delay she faced after requesting an abortion, and her eligibility under section 9 of the PLDPA, her right to travel to the UK to have the procedure was not met.

 

Was this due to her difficulty understanding her rights, or were these rights simply ignored? The case demonstrates the lengths that Ireland will go to maintain their control over women’s lives.

In this case we have a forced, severely pre-term birth of a child that is at risk of an early death and significant disability. Is this really preferable to the termination of an unwanted pregnancy, where the mother's life is at risk?

Delaying an abortion is only supposed to happen when the parent wants to give birth to a child, and is prepared to endure the risks. But instead of following medical best practice, this case was driven by fundamentalist religious belief, and right-wing political control.

What has become clear is that any attempt to implement the PLDPA, will always be overshadowed by the severity of the law. The prison sentence for an abortion that doesn't meet the act's narrow parameters is 14 years.

In order for women’s lives to be protected during pregnancy, the act must be struck down, the constitutional ban on abortion repealed, and abortion decriminalised.

During questioning by the UN Human Rights Council last month, Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland's Minister for Justice, admitted that improving access to abortion services would require the repeal of the 8th Amendment.

And she's right. Doctors for Choice Ireland calls for the Irish government to grasp the nettle and call for a referendum on this issue in 2015. In just a matter of months, all Irish women could be granted full freedom of choice, and have their basic right to safe abortions protected by the law.

READ MORE:
Your religious beliefs have no place in an abortion clinic
There is such a thing as a positive abortion story  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links