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Abortion case woman's mental health 'ignored'

THe failure to refer the young woman at the centre of the latest abortion controversy for mental health treatment is now under the spotlight.

The asylum-seeker, who was raped in her home country, discovered she was pregnant during a public health screening process which all asylum-seekers undergo when they enter direct provision.

She was approximately eight weeks pregnant when she learned that she was expecting.

Her baby was ultimately delivered early by caesarean section when she was 25 weeks pregnant after she was deemed by an expert panel to be at risk of suicide.

Over the course of the earlier stages of her pregnancy, the woman is known to have come into contact with a public health nurse, a family planning clinic and had a scan to examine the baby.

Within government circles, questions are also being raised about why the woman was not referred for psychiatric assessment when she was being medically examined and advised on her options.

As a result, she did come into contact with a number of health professionals.

"Why did they not refer her to a psychiatrist? Why wasn't the Act invoked earlier?" a senior government source said.

"If at eight weeks or 16 weeks she was distressed, why was she not assessed?"

It has also emerged that the young woman was not on hunger strike when the HSE sought a court order to allow her to be rehydrated.

She had been refusing to eat and drink in the previous week, which prompted the application for a care order as the planned date for the delivery of the baby was approaching.

"The fear was the hunger strike would return as preparations for the procedure were in train. It was a safeguard as it wasn't used," a source familiar with the case said.

When she discovered she was pregnant, the woman immediately requested an abortion and was referred to a family planning agency that provides sexual health, family planning, pregnancy counselling and training services.

She also came into contact with a public health nurse and a women's health facility where she was scanned to establish her exact gestation.

But it was only when she attended a GP at 22 weeks pregnant that she was referred for psychiatric care . The teen formally requested an abortion under new legislation which came into effect last January.

The HSE, which has launched an investigation into what medical care was given to the vulnerable young woman, who has had no contact with her newborn baby, said all interactions would be investigated by the review team.

The investigation, ordered by HSE director general Tony O'Brien, will seek to establish the facts of the case, the sequence of events and the care the woman received as well as the operation of the abortion law, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, 2013.

The young woman had said she would rather die than bear her rapist's child.

In an interview, she spoke of how she was raped in her home country before she came to Ireland. She found out she was pregnant during a routine medical check.

"In my culture it is a great shame to be pregnant if not married," said the woman, who claimed she tried to take her own life but was interrupted.