Thursday 14 December 2017

Dr Ciara Kelly: 'How can someone have such consideration for something the size of a pea - and so little for the distress of the actually born'

Dr Ciara Kelly
Dr Ciara Kelly
Vulnerable teenage girl was locked up. Photo posed

Ciara Kelly

So another week goes by and another case of inhumane treatment of Irish women at the hands of the Eighth Amendment of the constitution appears in the news. I'm almost certain I've written a virtually identical introduction to a column on other occasions. And, sadly, I may well write it again before this sorry state of affairs is over.

This time, a distressed, pregnant teenage girl who requested an abortion last year- and was deemed to be at risk of self-harm or suicide by a psychiatrist - was not provided with that abortion, but was instead sectioned under the Mental Health Act and locked up in a psychiatric unit. The report stated she and her mother where extremely agitated as they'd believed she was being sent to Dublin to receive an abortion - only to find she was being sent to be detained against her will. To be clear, the Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Act (PLDPA) allows abortion in Ireland in the case of a suicidal, pregnant woman requesting one. But that is not what happened.

Many psychiatrists, some of whom are members of the pro-life campaign - have previously stated that abortion is not a treatment for suicidality. Which of course is true but disingenuous. Being given a house isn't a treatment for suicidality - but when you're suicidal because you're homeless, it certainly helps. Divorce isn't a treatment for suicidality - but when you're suicidal because you're in a violent relationship, it certainly helps. Abortion may not be a cure for all suicides but when you're suicidal because of a pregnancy, it certainly helps. Some psychiatrists have also stated their opinion shouldn't be used to decide if a girl should receive an abortion - that it's too much responsibility. Amazingly though, they've never had a problem with their opinion being used to incarcerate someone.

The girl was luckily reviewed by a different psychiatrist a few days later who stated she did not have any psychological illness so should not continue to be held in a psychiatric hospital against her will and she was subsequently released.

Just think about this. A distressed, pregnant teenage girl who requested an abortion and was entitled to one under this country's laws - instead of receiving one, was locked up in a psychiatric institution against her will and the express wishes of her mother. In 2016.

Minister James Reilly expressly said in the Dail this would never happen when he said "The very notion that one could section a woman who is expressing suicidal ideation but is not depressed to keep her confined for the duration of her pregnancy would be utter anathema and would not be tolerated or countenanced."

But that's the thing - we keep being told these terrible outlandish scenarios will never happen but then they do. Over and over again.

This also highlights how unfair our laws controlling women's reproductive rights are. If my daughter was pregnant and suicidal this wouldn't happen. I would travel with her quietly, sadly and she'd never be committed to a psychiatric unit for the crime of being a child who doesn't want to have a child. This poor girl didn't seem to have the means to travel, so she was left at the mercy of a system that places no more value on her life, than that of an embryo.

I find it hard myself to understand the mindset of someone who wants to equate the value of an embryo to that of a grown, living, breathing, thinking, feeling woman. It seems so odd they can have such consideration for something the size of a pea - and so little for the terrible distress of the actually born.

The other thing that astounds me here is the fact that I can't get an adolescent mental health bed for almost anyone - yet in this case one was produced almost instantly for a pregnant girl with no psychological illness. That is quite extraordinary.

I felt sickened when I imagined what this girl and her mum went through when, already dealing with a crisis pregnancy, they then discovered they weren't being sent to Dublin to have a termination. They were being sent to Dublin so the girl could be locked up.

What the hell is wrong with us?


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