Suicidal rape victim’s abortion case reignites debate in Republic

O'Connell street in Dublin
O'Connell street in Dublin

Both sides in the debate about abortion in the Republic of Ireland have reacted strongly to reports that a suicidal woman who asked for an abortion after she was raped was refused a termination.

The woman is alleged to have first requested information about an abortion at eight weeks, with claims that medics refused to end the pregnancy until the baby could survive outside the womb and could be delivered by caesarean section.

Bishop Ken Clarke.

Bishop Ken Clarke.

The woman, whose case was considered by a panel of experts convened by the Republic’s Health Service Executive (HSE), was reported to have gone on hunger and thirst strike in protest at the refusal to permit an abortion.

The HSE then asked Dublin’s High Court for permission to hydrate the woman, who is a foreign national, to keep her alive, something which the court permitted.

Details of the woman’s case are restricted as a court order is in place to protect the identities of both the mother and her child. The baby is believed to have been delivered after 25 weeks and remains in hospital in state care.

The case is the most high-profile test of the Republic’s controversial new abortion legislation.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, passed into law by the Dail last year, permits abortion in the Republic where a woman is deemed to be at risk of suicide.

The law was re-cast to clarify the position for medics following the case of Savita Halappanavar.
There was an outcry after she died from infection after she was refused an abortion during a miscarriage in 2012.

Cathleen Doherty of the Abortion Rights Campaign said that the law was “not fit for purpose”.

She said that there would be public demonstrations in Dublin and Galway about the issue and added: “The shocking details coming to light about this case are a chilling indictment of a legal system and health system that disregards women’s decisions, needs and bodily autonomy.”

Baby ‘living proof abortion ends life’

A Christian group has said that there are “many troubling aspects” to the case which emerged over the weekend.

Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute – of which the Ulster-born former Church of Ireland bishop Ken Clarke, above, is a patron – said: “There are reports that the young woman was terrified of an unspecified person, and even afraid that she might be killed.

“If these reports are accurate, were the Gardai informed?

“It is also deeply troubling that there is now a young baby struggling for life in a Dublin hospital, because she or he was delivered on the cusp of viability. There have been allegations that this child was born as the result of rape, and suggestions that it would have been better, given the circumstances of the conception, that this child had been aborted at an early stage. This child is living proof of the inconvenient truth that abortion ends a life.”