Saturday 18 January 2020

Baby's delivery in abortion case 'unethical' - bishop

Stock photo
Stock photo

Sarah MacDonaldand Emma Jane Hade

THE delivery of a baby by caesarean section on a young woman at the centre of the first known test of the country's restrictive abortion laws has been described as "really unethical" by the country's newest bishop.

Kevin Doran, the newly ordained Bishop of Elphin, last night said the baby was delivered in an "untimely fashion when there was no physical reason for doing so".

He told the Irish Independent: "The removal of a child from the womb in that kind of context is really unethical and there is no other way of putting it. It was far better that the child was removed from the womb to be saved than to be aborted, but it is not natural."

A Labour minister last night called for the Constitutional Convention to be reconvened to consider our abortion laws.

Equality Minister Aodhan O Riordain said the next Government must be "brave enough" to call another abortion referendum.

Bishop Doran's remarks are likely to inflame the row over the treatment of women who find themselves seeking a termination under the newly enacted Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

The deeply divisive debate on abortion was reignited after the Irish Independent revealed how the young woman had her baby delivered by C-section after going on hunger strike.


The foreign national feared for her life on non-medical grounds as a result of falling pregnant and told doctors she was suicidal. It's understood that the woman may have become pregnant as a result of being raped, but this has not been confirmed by the HSE.

After being assessed by an independent panel, as provided for under the new abortion laws, the woman's request for a termination was refused.

The two psychiatrists on the three-person panel deemed the termination necessary, however, the consultant obstetrician involved in the decision-making process differed and the baby was delivered by caesarean section.

The trauma experienced by the mother at the centre of the case has sparked claims that the current law is "flawed". Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she was "concerned" for the woman and baby involved. She said that the legislation in place will be monitored by the Government.

Labour TDs last night called for the "groundwork to be put in place" for a new referendum on the country's limited abortion regime.

Aodhan O Riordain, who has responsibility for equality and culture, said he believes the Constitutional Convention should be recalled to examine the prospect of a referendum during the tenure of the next government.

"The next government needs to go to the people and ask them to change the constitutional position in Ireland in relation to abortion. This (case) was always going to happen, we were bound to have cases like this that leave people very upset and emotional," the minister told the Irish Independent.

"We must now lay the grounds for a referendum to potentially repeal the eighth amendment. I think this Government has done as much as we can do within the constraints of the Constitution, we have no mandate to do any more," he added.

The eighth amendment, also known as article 40.3.3, gives equal constitutional rights to the life of a mother and her unborn child. It has been the subject of contentious debate and recently criticised by a UN watchdog for human rights.

But the woman's case has exposed the major divide between the two sides of the abortion debate, with one of the country's leading bishops last night describing the manner in which the child was delivered as "really unethical".

Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said the three-person panel made their decision while "forces around them would have been saying abort the child".

He told the Irish Independent: "I wouldn't specifically want to criticise the people who made the decision because at the end of the day the decision they made was to save the life of a child, when the forces around them would have been saying abort the child.

"I wouldn't regard it as a great achievement to take a child from its mother's womb at 24 weeks of age."

But the call by a Labour minister for a referendum will put the issue back to the top of the political agenda. Mr O Riordain was supported by a number of his party colleagues, including Waterford TD Ciara Conway and senator Ivana Bacik, who expressed deep shock at the woman's ordeal.

Meanwhile, legal expert and former doctor Simon Mills yesterday said the woman may have been afforded a termination prior to the enactment of the new laws. This is because the woman could have brought the case to a court of law instead of being assessed by a three-person panel. Mr Mills described the case as "a very fraught, emotional tale".

He told The Sunday Show on Newstalk: "And to judge from what you can glean in the newspapers, this appears to be one such situation in which an individual who is a non-national, creates difficulties in relation to the act."


Both the child and the woman at the centre of the case are continuing to receive care from the State. It's expected that the child will be taken into the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

After being initially told she would be refused a termination, the woman went on hunger and thirst strike. The HSE then went to the high court to prevent the woman from starving herself.

She eventually consented to having the baby delivered by caesarean section. She had claimed she was suicidal and was concerned about the reaction of her family and one other individual. The child was born at 25 weeks.

Irish Independent

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