Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland's health authorities launch probe into care of abortion row teen

By Dearbhail McDonald and Fionnan Sheahan

An investigation has been launched in the Republic into what medical care was given to a vulnerable teenager in the 12-week period between her first request for an abortion and her baby being delivered.

Questions are being asked about what help, if any, was given to the young asylum seeker who was said to have been acutely distressed when she discovered she was pregnant.

The teenager, a victim of rape, requested an abortion in April when she was about two months pregnant.

But it was three months before a GP referred her for assessment after he deemed her to be suicidal.

She gave birth to a baby boy by Caesarean section at 25 weeks after being refused a termination by an expert panel.

The teenager came to Ireland to escape a conflict in her home country, where she had been raped. She learned she was around two months pregnant soon after arriving in the Republic and asked for an abortion.

She received abortion and travel information from a family planning clinic. But sources claim the authorities "kept fobbing her off" when she requested access to an abortion. "From the moment she discovered she was pregnant, she wanted an abortion. The fact she couldn't get one made her suicidal," a source said.

It has now emerged that she moved between two asylum seeker centres at her own request.

After months seeking an abortion and having moved to a second centre, the woman was referred by a GP to hospital for assessment under the new Protection of Life In Pregnancy Act 2013, as he deemed her to be suicidal. An examination by a panel of three experts at the end of July found she had suicidal thoughts and a decision was taken to terminate the pregnancy by delivering the baby.

But there was a delay in the baby being delivered to ensure it would survive, as the woman was only 25 weeks pregnant.

The baby boy was delivered by Caesarean section the week before last. He is still in an incubator and is expected to be taken into State care. A very premature baby born at around 25 weeks may not survive or may have long-term problems, but a small number escape with few complications.

The woman has now left hospital and is being treated in a State health facility.

The case is the first example of suicide being cited as grounds for the termination of a pregnancy under the new abortion laws.

It is also the first where the outcome has been the birth of the baby. However, the law has been employed in other cases where abortion took place on medical grounds.

The Health and Safety Executive is set to conduct an internal inquiry into its handling of the case.

Health Minister Leo Varadka welcomed the inquiry. "It will provide welcome clarity. I would encourage people to await the outcome of the HSE report before jumping to conclusions, and to avoid turning a very difficult, traumatic case into a political cause before knowing all the facts," he said.

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