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Woman whose baby has fatal abnormality is 'refused abortion'


The Coombe. Photo: Mark Condren/Sunday Tribune

The Coombe. Photo: Mark Condren/Sunday Tribune

Simon Harris is aware of the case. Photo: Collins Photo Agency

Simon Harris is aware of the case. Photo: Collins Photo Agency


The Coombe. Photo: Mark Condren/Sunday Tribune

A woman carrying a baby with a fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) was refused a termination at one of Dublin's biggest maternity hospitals, it has been claimed.

Two doctors at the Coombe Hospital certified that the woman - who was more than 13 weeks pregnant at the time of the diagnosis - was eligible for an abortion under new legislation, which has been in force for nearly three weeks.

However, she was then reportedly told to wait another four weeks to see if there was a spontaneous miscarriage.


The allegation was made in the Dail by Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs Brid Smith and Ruth Coppinger.

Ms Smith said: "She's pregnant on a much-wanted baby. But she is being told by doctors you can go to England.

"Her words to me were, 'This is not what I voted for. I have constitutional rights'."

In response, the Coombe Hospital said it did not comment on individual cases, but insisted that its board "has had no role in determining whether or not the criteria for certification have been met".

The Department of Health confirmed that Health Minister Simon Harris is aware of the case.

Section 11 of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 sets out the law on access to termination of pregnancy in cases where there is a condition present affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus before or within 28 days of birth.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The operation of the legislation is a matter for attending clinicians. Neither the minister nor the department has any role in the medical management of cases.

"In addition, the board of any institution, including that of the Coombe, has no role in such decision making.

"However, it is clear that where a patient requires care not available in a particular location, the patient should be transferred to a hospital where the necessary care is available."

The department said it had "been advised that the Coombe Hospital is currently providing terminations in emergency situations and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality".

The Coombe announced last month that it was not ready to provide a full rollout of services as set out under the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, including taking referrals of women who were seeking a medical abortion at between nine and 12 weeks.


When the matter was raised yesterday by Ms Coppinger, the Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail intervened and said it was not appropriate for the Dail to discuss the experience of an individual patient.

Ms Coppinger addressed Tanasite Simon Coveney and said: "I want to raise with you what I believe is the first test case for the new abortion legislation.

"It would seem to me that it's because of the chilling effect of criminalisation that maternity hospitals are acting in this way."

Ms Coppinger also accused the Rotunda Hospital of enforcing the law up to 11 weeks into a pregnancy, not the 12 weeks that is allowed.

She asked Mr Coveney to get Mr Harris to meet the woman involved in the case.

"She should not have to pay to travel if she doesn't have her constitutional rights affirmed," she said.