Just one year after Ireland’s parliament passed legislation to introduce abortion on the grounds of a credible claim by a woman that she is suicidal, details of the first test of the law are emerging.
Happily, mother and child have both escaped with their lives in the case in question – but only because they were lucky enough to have at hand the services and judgement of an obstetrician who valued both their lives equally.
The details of the case, insofar as legal restrictions permit their being reported, are here in Ireland’s Independent newspaper.
In summary, a young immigrant woman discovered that she was pregnant. She was admitted to hospital and asked for an abortion because if her pregnancy were discovered in her community she said that her live would be in danger. However, the pregnancy was found to be in its second trimester and the obstetrician judged that the baby could be safely delivered. The woman insisted she wanted an abortion and said she would take her life if refused. Under the terms of Ireland’s new law – which places no restriction on abortion right up to the end of the third trimester – two psychiatrists were asked to judge on her threat. They are understood to have recommended an abortion – euphemistically and hardly accurately described by the Irish Health Service Executive as a “treatment” for suicide. Her logic – of taking her life to prevent her life being taken – did not seem to have been questioned. The obstetrician, however, stood his or her ground in the belief that both lives could be saved. The mother was persuaded to accept a Caesarean, and the baby was safely delivered.
The Irish HSE would not comment on the case but gave this reply to the Independent journalist:
“In response to your query the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 commenced on 1st January 2014. Its purpose is to confer procedural rights on a woman who believes she has a life-threatening condition, so that she can have certainty as to whether she requires this treatment or not,” a spokesman said.
Lucky baby, lucky mother. Under this new law it is now clear that life and death for some of those awaiting birth in their mother’s wombs in Ireland will now be decided by the lottery which determines which obstetrician’s hands they fall into – those who value life, all life, or those who are selective about the lives they value.
The Irish Pro Life Campaign commented on yesterday’s media reports on this story that it highlights the “horror and deep seated flaws” in the Government’s legislation.
The PLC’s Dr Ruth Cullen said: “It is agreed on all sides that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings yet the Government pressed ahead and railroaded through legislation that is not evidence-based and provides for abortion based on a threat of suicide. We now have the situation where doctors are placed in the position of making decisions knowing there is not a shred of evidence to back any of them up.
These reports, she said, that an unborn baby was recently delivered at 25 weeks, citing provisions in the new abortion Act, underline 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.
“To put a defenceless baby through all this, and to pretend the intervention is medically indicated when it is known that there is no evidence to back it up, is a chilling aberration of law and medicine. The fact that the panel could just as easily have sanctioned an abortion in this case also brings home everything that is wrong about the new law.
“The Government successfully packaged the law as a life-saving measure even though it is nothing of the sort. Although it is going to take time, as more and more people begin to realise what the law actually provides for, support for it to be repealed will grow and grow.”
The Irish pro life organisations have been campaigning against this legislation since it was first introduced to the Irish parliament and, since it was passed into law, have continued to do so unrelentingly, bringing tens of thousands of protesters against on to the streets. The history of this case can only underline the argument for the repeal of the law which is now bound to become an issue in the next Irish general election due early in 2016.