Rape victim? Suicidal? You still can't get an abortion in Ireland

Dina Rickman@dinarickman
Tuesday 19 August 2014 13:20
news

A young rape victim who says she was forced to give birth by caesarean section after being refused by an abortion by Irish authorities - despite being suicidal - has spoken out about her case for the first time.

In an interview with the Irish Times the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she was an immigrant and had been raped in her own country. "I did not know I was pregnant until I came here", she said. We do not know the woman's age, but the journalist Kitty Holland described her as a young woman "who looks about four years younger than her age."

The woman first requested an abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant after being referred to the Irish Family Planning Association. She could have been entitled to one under a clause in Ireland’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013), which supposedly legalises the termination of pregnancies in cases when there is a medical consensus that there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the risk of suicide.

The actual law says three medical practitioners - two psychiatrists and one obstetrician - have to agree that there is a "real and substantial risk" of suicide which can only be averted through carrying out a termination. This was passed following the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist who died of septicaemia in an Irish hospital after being denied an abortion on the basis her life was not in danger.

According to the Irish Times the woman was not assessed under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act until she went to see a GP later in her pregnancy, who referred her to a hospital psychiatrist. She was admitted to hospital when she was 24 weeks but told she could not have a termination because her pregnancy was too advanced.

The woman then went on a hunger strike, was certified as suicidal and given the right to a termination. But then she said she was told the only option was a caesarean section.

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’

She has not had any contact with the child, who remains in hospital, and did not want a child born out of rape. "I feel I have been left by everybody . . . I just wanted justice to be done. For me this is injustice."

Irish perinatal psychiatrist Dr Anthony McCarthy told the Irish Times the law was only designed for a small number of women who are actively suicidal. "It doesn’t address women who are distressed because of rape, who maybe even have suicidal ideas because of rape,” he said.

“I have seen women with suicidal ideas who have no intention of killing themselves: it is just an indication of their level of distress; it’s not an intention.”

The director general of Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE) has ordered a report into the case, which will be completed at the end of September.

More: 'The Irish government is treating women worse than animals'

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