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Monday 22 September 2014

Baby delivered as woman refused abortion under law

Dearbhail McDonald and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 16/08/2014 | 02:30

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Sillhouette of a pregnant woman

A YOUNG woman, who was refused an abortion under the country’s new laws, had the baby delivered by Caesarean section after going on hunger strike.

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The woman was in the second trimester of the pregnancy when she discovered she was pregnant and requested the abortion, which was refused.

In what is believed to be one of the first cases under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, 2013,  the woman sought an abortion as she claimed to be suicidal.

Her case was assessed by a panel of three experts, as set out under the legislation passed last summer.

The psychiatrists on the panel determined her life was at risk as she had suicidal thoughts. But the consultant obstetrician said the baby could be delivered as it was far enough into the pregnancy.

The panel decided the baby should be delivered. The child was born at 25 weeks and is understood to be doing well.

After initially refusing to have the baby delivered, the woman ultimately agreed.

"She applied for a termination and was rejected. She then went on a hunger and fluid strike," a source said.

Concerns for the well-­being of her and her baby were heightened. The HSE went to the High Court to get a care order to prevent her from starving herself. A second court date was due for the HSE to set out its care plan.

However, in the intervening period, the woman agreed to have the baby delivered.

The woman was between 23 and 25 weeks pregnant when the baby was delivered last week.

"The psychiatrists would have assessed her as having suicidal ideation. The consultant leaned on the legislation which allows the baby to be delivered," a source said.

"The care order gave permission to hydrate her. She wasn't on hunger strike for long enough to be of danger to herself or the baby."

Identification

The young woman discovered she was pregnant quite late. The baby is expected to be taken into care. A court order preventing the identification of the woman is also in place.

The suicide clause of the law - section 9 of the act - was one of the most contentious parts of the legislation. Due to the 1992 X case, there is no time limit in the 2013 act as to when a pregnancy can be brought to an end.

But there is no obstacle in the act to prevent doctors from delivering a baby where the pregnancy is viable.

The HSE and the Department of Health both said that theydo not comment on individual cases.

"In response to your query, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 commenced on January 1, 2014. Its 
purpose is to confer procedural rights on a woman who believes she has a life-threatening condition, so that she can have certainty as to whether she requires this treatment or not," a spokesman said.

Doctors have finally been issued with guidelines on the new abortion law. The rules say they can intervene to save the life of a mother even in cases where the pregnancy is well advanced. The guidelines point out that the law, passed last summer, has no time limit imposed for carrying out a procedure.

The document stresses that while doctors are required to "preserve unborn human life as far as practicable" they cannot compromise the woman's right to life.

The legislation sets out no time limit for doctors carrying out a medical procedure where a pregnant woman's life is in real and substantial danger due to physical complications or suicide risk.

The guidelines, drawn up over many months by an expert committee, are aimed at giving advice to doctors on the practical application of the law, setting out the form of assessment involved as well as their obligations to a woman whose pregnancy may put her life at risk.

Irish Independent

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