Thursday 21 February 2019

Woman refused abortion at Dublin hospital, Dáil is told

Coombe Hospital denies board overruled consultants' abortion decision

The Coombe Hospital
The Coombe Hospital
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A pregnant woman whose baby was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality has been refused a termination, the Dáil has been told.

The incident was said to have happened at Dublin's Coombe Hospital and it was raised by Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith.

According to Ms Coppinger the woman involved was told she must wait four weeks in order to see if there is a spontaneous miscarriage.

The contribution lead to heated exchanges as the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl intervened to say that it was not appropriate to discuss a medical situation in the Dáil.

Ms Smith insisted the woman wanted the matter raised in the Dáil.

Ms Coppinger said: “I want to raise what I believe is the first test case for the new abortion legislation. I have been contacted by a woman who has a fatal foetal abnormality that has been certified by two consultants."

"I’ve been contacted by a woman who has a fatal foetal abnormality that has been certified by two consultants and now it appears the board of the Coombe Hospital is refusing her constitutional right that we all voted for to have an abortion at a time she chooses.

"Instead they have told her that she must wait another four weeks to see if there’s a spontaneous miscarriage."

However, the Coombe Hospital has this evening said that claims that its Board had a role in determining whether criteria had been met for a termination of pregnancy in a case are untrue.

It said it could not comment on individual cases, but added that that the Board of Guardians and Directors of the Coombe had no role whatsoever in certifying a termination of pregnancy.

"Insofar as recent media coverage has stated that the Board has had a role in determining whether or not the criteria for certification have been met, those reports are untrue," it added.

Ms Coppinger had earlier outlined details of the case and Mr Ó Fearghaíl warned her that it was "without precedent that we would get involved in discussing a medical situation".

The Solidarity TD replied: "this is about the law" and added: "A main maternity hospital in the capital city of this country is refusing this woman her constitutional rights when two doctors certified what is very clearly a fatal foetal abnormality."

She claimed: "it would seem to me that it’s because of the chilling effect of criminalisation that maternity hospitals are acting in this way."

Ms Coppinger also accused the Rotunda Hospital of only enforcing the law up to 11 weeks into a pregnancy, not the 12 weeks that is allowed.

She asked Mr Coveney to get the minister for health Simon Harris to meet the woman involved in the case she raised today.

"She should not have to pay to travel - which is what she’s talking about doing if she doesn’t have her constitutional rights affirmed."

Ms Smith said she spoke to the woman last night.

"She’s pregnant on a much wanted baby. But she is being told by doctors you can go to England.

"Her words to me were ‘this is not what I voted for. I have constitutional rights’.

"Now what are you Tánaiste going to do about it today? Not next week. Today?

"She finds it hard to sleep knowing that the condition that her much-wanted child is in and she wants a termination."

Mr Ó Fearghaíl stood up and interrupted her saying: "We cannot and will not have in this Chamber a situation in which individual cases are brought up here and ministers called upon to adjudicate or comment upon medical situations...

"The law is one thing… discussing individual medical circumstances is not appropriate, not in order."

Mr Coveney said: "The law is now clear in this area.

"The government with the support of many in this house passed legislation in a way that was consistent with what we promised we would do in the context of the referendum that was taken.

"So the law is clear. But I agree with the Ceann Comhairle. I don’t think it’s appropriate deputy to raise a tragic case of somebody who is clearly under a lot of stress and this case needs to be dealt with appropriately by doctors in a hospital"

Ms Smith said: "We would not be raising it if this woman didn’t want us to.

"She wants us to, she wants to be named, she wants a termination. Can you imagine what she is going through?"

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said: "Deputy there are patients in hospitals across the country that might want various circumstances that they find themselves in discussed here on the floor of the house.

"It hasn’t happened and it’s not going to happen now... you’ve made your point. You’re out of order."

As he tried to end the discussion Ms Coppinger said: "This is new legislation hat the entire country voted for en masse. There’s problems with it".

Ms Smith said to Mr Coveney: "If you cannot comment on individual cases comment on the law. Comment on the law that women are being deprived of, their constitutional rights. Comment on that."

Ms Coppinger added: "Are you going to contact the maternity hospital about implementing the law?"

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