Asylum seekers granted 'abortion visas'
Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30
ASYLUM seekers in Ireland have been given special visas to go to the UK for abortions in recent years, the Department of Justice has confirmed.
A spokeswoman for Frances Fitzgerald's department said that "in recent years a small number of travel documents were issued to women to leave the State" for abortion, but it had no funding role.
Adult asylum seekers who needed the special permission had to find their own source of funding for an abortion. If minors were in state care their expenses were paid for by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Around six girls under the age of 18 had their travel and abortions paid for in the UK by the HSE since the early 1990s.
All of the women would have qualified because of a threat of suicide, according to the terms of the X case, because their lives were deemed at real and substantial danger.
The girls were examined by psychiatrists in all cases and it was deemed to be in their best interests to be allowed travel for an abortion. In some cases court permission was obtained.
Confirmation that one arm of the State has been involved in granting special permission to asylum seekers to leave the country in these circumstances, while the HSE has paid the travel and care costs, come in the wake of the latest abortion controversy.
Terms of reference for a HSE review into the case of a woman who was refused an abortion but had her baby delivered at 25 weeks by C-section have been delayed due to legal issues and are expected today.
It will aim to find out what actions were taken when the HSE was told of her vulnerable and suicidal state, 16 weeks into her pregnancy.
The young woman at the centre of the case has claimed that when she was eight weeks' pregnant she was referred to the Irish Family Planning Association and thought the process to secure permission to travel was under way in the following weeks. However, she was then told at around 16 weeks that it could cost her around €1,500 to go abroad for an abortion. She was over 20 weeks' pregnant when eventually referred to hospital here.
She was entitled under the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act to be assessed by two psychiatrists and an obstetrician.
The HSE said that in the past, on receipt of a court order, it had "supported individuals to receive assistance to terminate pregnancies".