Editorial - State needs to review the 2013 Abortion Act
THE full facts of the case of a young asylum seeker refused an abortion are yet to emerge. But it is already apparent that the substantive and procedural rights afforded to women under the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act may not be fully accessible.
The case is the first example of suicide being cited as a grounds for the termination of a pregnancy under the new abortion laws whose own birth was dominated by disputes over the inclusion of the suicide clause to bring Ireland's law into line with the 1992 X Case.
If the teenage rape victim requested a termination as far back as April, it begs questions as to why she was not referred to a GP or relevant health professional to ascertain if she was suitable for assessment under the act.
It is vital that we fill the gaps in the missing 12 weeks between the initial discovery of her pregnancy and her formal request - at some 22 weeks' gestation - for a termination on suicide grounds.
The Health Services Executive (HSE) is responsible for the provision of medical services for all asylum seekers, including unaccompanied and "aged out" minors who have reached the age of majority but are deemed to be vulnerable.
The agency has commenced an inquiry into the young woman's case.
But the inquiry should not look at the facts from a medical perspective alone. The woman had her baby delivered at 25 weeks by caesarean section after she was refused a termination by an expert panel and went on hunger strike.
The Department of Justice has overall responsibility for the operation of our asylum system, including the much-maligned system of direct provision.
That department's role and operations must also be scrutinised as part of any credible review, as the State could be subject to litigation over any perceived delays and failure to implement its own laws.
The Government should therefore move to set up an independent, multi-departmental inquiry and review the act.
The plight of the girl serves as an indictment not just of the efficacy of the 2013 Act but also of the system of direct provision which tries but cannot meet the complex health - including mental health - needs of asylum seekers.
Time to bring student 'digs' back in vogue
For many, the idea of rooming with a family in student “digs” will conjure up visions of penny-pinching landlord Rigsby and his unrequited pursuit of Ms Jones in the classic comedy Rising Damp, or of frayed carpets and overbearing landladies and landlords.
There’s no reason that should be the case. If householders and students respect each others’ boundaries, they have a huge amount to offer one another.
The same factors driving homelessness and a shortage of family homes mean that in Dublin in particular the shortage of student accommodation is particularly acute this year.
At the same time, a generation of homeowners is struggling with big mortgages taken out during the boom – some of whom at least have spare rooms that could be used to help service those loans. Uniquely, up to €10,000 a year can be earned tax free from renting out a room. For first-year students in particular, “digs” can provide affordable housing and help ease the transition to living away from home. It’s an idea whose time has come back.