An impossible ordeal that no woman should face
Published 17/12/2010 | 05:00
SHE called Ireland her home, but found Irish law was not on her side.
In the end, she had to resort to the internet to find out if her pregnancy was risking her life -- and that ultimately led her to the European Court of Human Rights so that no other woman would have to go through what she endured.
Miss C, the woman at the centre of the abortion case, is from Lithuania and had lived in Ireland for some time.
While here, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and fought the illness for three years. Prior to her beginning her treatment, she asked her doctor how her illness would affect her desire to have children in the future.
She was advised it was "not possible" to predict the effect of pregnancy on her cancer and that if she did become pregnant, it would be dangerous for the foetus if she had chemotherapy in the first trimester.
She had several courses of chemotherapy and was in remission in 2005. At this stage, she fell pregnant unintentionally. She didn't know she was carrying a child and, at the same time, underwent a series of tests for cancer. In order to protect their health and the health of their unborn child, these unspecified tests should not be carried out on pregnant women.
After confirming the pregnancy she went to her GP, as well as a number of medical consultants, to get opinions on the risks and options.
She alleged that, as a result of the "chilling effect" of the Irish legal framework, she received insufficient information as to how the pregnancy would affect her health and how the cancer tests would affect the foetus.
She turned to the internet to research the risks, and what she read forced her to make one of the hardest decisions of her life. Despite her desire to have a child, she believed that to carry on was just too risky as her cancer could relapse.
She travelled to England and sought a medical abortion, which involves taking drugs in the early stages of pregnancy to induce a miscarriage.
But she was told at several clinics that they could not provide the drug because she was a non-resident and this particular treatment required follow-up visits to the clinic.
She then had to wait a further eight weeks for the foetus to develop so she would be eligible for a surgical abortion. She had the abortion while still in her first trimester.
However, when she returned to Ireland she suffered complications as a result of an incomplete abortion, including prolonged bleeding and infection. She said doctors provided inadequate medical care.
She turned to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) for counselling after her ordeal.
It was from there that she went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights to try and force the Irish Government to implement the existing constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland.