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For four days I didn't drink, I didn't eat... I thought that way I could die

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Leo Vardakar

Leo Vardakar

Leo Vardakar

A RAPE victim, who was refused an abortion despite being suicidal, has revealed how she became increasingly distressed after she could not afford to travel to Britain, or secure the procedure here.

The young asylum seeker, who fled her home country after being raped, was effectively trapped in Ireland 
while she was trying to end the pregnancy that resulted from the sexual assault.

And she revealed how she attempted to take her own life while 16 weeks pregnant and that she went on hunger strike after becoming so distressed at her situation.

The woman was refused an abortion, despite immediately expressing her desire to die rather than bear her rapist's child.

She claimed that she was told that she could have an abortion while she refused to eat or drink.

But she was eventually told her "only option" was to have a Caesarean section at 24 weeks pregnant, when a panel of two psychiatrists and an obstetrician finally confirmed her suitability for a termination of the pregnancy.

In an interview published today, 
the woman said that she had found 
out that she was pregnant when she went for a medical check here.

"I was raped in my country. I did not know I was pregnant until I came here," she said, in an interview with The Irish Times.

"In my culture it is a great shame to be pregnant if not married," she added.

"I didn't even know what [the medic] was saying to me.

"I said to her, 'I could die because of this pregnancy. I am prepared to kill myself'."

The young woman had meetings with the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) and was told that an abortion could be performed in Britain up to 28 weeks into a pregnancy.

But the financial burden - it would have cost €1,500 - was too much to bear.

She said when she was informed of the cost, at 16 weeks pregnant, she attempted to take her own life, but was interrupted.

After speaking with a family friend she was advised to tell a GP about her suicidal ideation, which she did.

She was then referred to a psychiatrist but was told that she was now too far pregnant to have an abortion.

Rape

"The next day, around 10am, I was taken in a taxi to another hospital.

"When we got there I thought they were going to help me.

"They brought me to a room where they did a scan and the pregnancy was 24 weeks and one day.

"They said they could not do an abortion. I said 'you can leave me now to die. I don't want to live in this world anymore'."

The woman said that she started to refuse food and water and was eventually told that she could have an abortion. She was told that she had to eat and drink to maintain her strength for the procedure, which she did.

"They knew I was going to do myself ill," she said.

"From Friday I did not eat. I did not drink. For four days I didn't drink, I didn't eat. I thought that way I could die.

"On Monday night two doctors came, a psychiatrist and a gynaecologist, and said, 'We are going to carry out the abortion next Monday but you have to be strong.

"'You have to eat. You have to drink.' I started to eat and I drank."

However, she was later told the 
pregnancy had gone too far and 
she would have to have a Caesarean section.

"They said wherever you go in the world, the United States, anywhere, at this point it has to be a Caesarean.

"I didn't know if I could continue to suffer," she told the newspaper.

After again refusing food and water she was then told that the authorities had been informed about her situation and that she would need a lawyer.

The HSE secured a care plan through the courts.

Eventually medics agreed to carry out a section, but the woman said that she wanted an abortion.

She has since been released from hospital and has visited a HSE psychiatrist twice.

The woman said that her stomach is still sore, and the scar will never go away, adding that it would always be a reminder of what happened.

She said: "For me this was shameful. In our culture if a girl gives birth to a child before marriage everything is finished.

"No one can respect you. As well as that, for me, with the rape, it was difficult."

The HSE has begun an internal inquiry into its handling of the case.

After talks with Health Minister Leo Varadkar, HSE director general Tony O'Brien commissioned a report to establish the full facts of the case, the sequence of events, the care the woman received and the operation of the abortion law. It is due to be completed by the end of September.

lbyrne@herald.ie


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