Thursday 18 December 2014

Justice Minister concerned for woman and baby at centre of new abortion laws

Published 17/08/2014 | 13:29

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced the competition for the top policing job in the country two weeks ago
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced the competition for the top policing job in the country two weeks ago

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said she is concerned for the young woman and baby at the centre of the first known test of the country's new abortion laws.

The minister said the Government will continue to monitor the law and see how it is implemented.

"Obviously I can't comment on individual cases," she said, "but I am concerned for the woman and the baby involved.

"Clearly we passed legislation earlier in the year and we will continue to monitor that legislation."

A young woman had a baby delivered by caesarean section after a panel of experts, convened under the country's new laws, decided not to permit an abortion, it was reported in yesterday’s Irish Independent.

Her case was assessed under the legislation, which was passed last summer and came into effect at the start of the year.

The woman, who is not an Irish national, believed there was a serious threat to her safety and well-being, though not on medical grounds, as a result of her pregnancy.

Earlier this summer, the woman sought an abortion under Section 9 of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, 2013 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 panel was made up a consultant obstetrician and two psychiatrists.

The psychiatrists on the panel determined her life was at risk as she had suicidal thoughts.

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But the consultant obstetrician said the baby could be delivered as it was far enough into the pregnancy.

A week after the young woman first presented she was informed she was to be refused an abortion.

She then went on a hunger and thirst strike.

As a result, concerns for her well-being and that of her baby were heightened. The Health Service Executive (HSE) went to the High Court to get a care order to prevent her from starving herself.

However, after initially refusing to have the baby delivered, the woman ultimately consented to the birth and the baby was delivered by Caesarean section.

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It is believed the gestation period was between 23 and 25 weeks. Sources last night confirmed the baby is still in hospital and doing well. It is understood the baby will be taken into the care of the HSE.

The Sunday Independent cannot publish any further personal details about the case due to strict reporting restrictions.

It was confirmed yesterday that a three-week period passed from when the woman presented herself at a hospital and the birth of the baby earlier this month.

The young woman was in the second trimester of the pregnancy when she discovered she was pregnant and requested the abortion. For reasons that cannot be disclosed, she was not in a position to travel to the UK for the termination.

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In what is believed to be one of the first cases under the new abortion laws, the woman sought a termination as she claimed to be suicidal.

The woman's suicidal thoughts are understood to have been underpinned by fear of her family's reaction. She is also understood to have been deeply concerned about the reaction of one individual.

According to two sources familiar with the case, there is a suggestion that the young woman may have become pregnant as a result of a rape, although this has not been confirmed. According to the new abortion laws, there is a duty on doctors to preserve the life of the unborn as far as practicable.

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