Belfast Telegraph

Forced C-section case revives Irish abortion debate: Pregnant suicidal woman was legally forced to have a Caesarean section

By Niall O'Connor

The Irish justice minister has expressed her concern after a pregnant suicidal woman was legally forced to have a Caesarean section at just 25 weeks.

The woman – understood to be young and vulnerable – is understood to have asked for an abortion in her second trimester.

It's believed that the woman may have become pregnant as a result of being raped, but this has not been confirmed by the Irish health service.

The deeply divisive debate on abortion in the Republic was reignited after it was revealed how the young woman had her baby delivered by C-section after staging a hunger strike.

The Health and Safety Executive then went to the high court to prevent the woman from starving herself.

The woman eventually consented to having the baby delivered by Caesarean section.

She had claimed she was suicidal and was concerned about the reaction of her family and one other individual.

After being assessed by an independent panel, as provided for under new abortion laws, the woman's request for a termination was refused.

The two psychiatrists on the three-person panel deemed the termination necessary.

However, the consultant obstetrician involved in the decision making process differed and the baby was delivered by Caesarean section. The baby was born at about 25 weeks and will be taken into state care.

Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "I can't comment, as you can appreciate, on individual cases but obviously I would be concerned, and people reading the accounts will be concerned, for the woman and the baby involved.

"Clearly we passed legislation earlier in the year and we obviously will continue to monitor that legislation and see how it is being implemented," she told RTE.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 that came into force at the start of the year set out when abortion is permitted in the Republic for the first time. The new laws provide for a woman's right to an abortion if her life is at risk.

Women who say they are suicidal are assessed by a panel of three experts to determine if they are at risk.

If they agree she is, doctors can intervene and carry out a termination.

The legislation was drawn up amid a public outcry over the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in an Irish hospital in October last year.

She had been denied an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

Her widower, Praveen, claimed the couple had been told in the hospital that a termination was not allowed because "Ireland is a Catholic country".

But Pro Life Campaign spokeswoman, Dr Ruth Cullen, said the news "underlines the horror and deep-seated flaws of the government's legislation".

"To induce a pregnancy at such an early stage inevitably puts the baby at risk of serious harm, such as brain damage, blindness or even death," she said.

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