Thursday, May 10, 2007

Irish teenager wins right to go to England for abortion

The Independent reports today :

An Irish court has ruled in favour of a teenage girl seeking legal permission to travel to England to abort her terminally ill foetus.

The 17-year-old, who is four months' pregnant, opted for an abortion after discovering that the foetus suffered from a brain condition which meant that it could live for at most three days after birth.

But health authorities where the girl is in care moved to prevent her travelling to England. Abortion is strictly curtailed in the Republic, though every year thousands of Irish women go to England for the procedure.

Following expedited hearings in which the authorities appointed a council to represent the unborn child, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie ruled in the Dublin High Court that there was no legal barrier to the girl, referred to as Miss D, travelling abroad for an abortion.

The judge said he "firmly and unequivocally" concluded there was no statutory or constitutional impediment preventing her from travelling for the purposes of terminating her pregnancy. He said that the case was not about abortion but was about the right to travel.

Mr Justice McKechnie complimented the teenager's "courage, integrity and maturity" in refusing to claim she was suicidal, a circumstance which in Ireland can provide grounds for an abortion.

In contrast, he criticised the health authorities who have tried to stop her going abroad, saying it was likely they had been motivated by trying to avoid having to make a public or controversial decision.

Welcoming the decision, the Alliance for Choice described the decision as the correct one. But it added that it deplored the additional anxiety and stress which it said the girl had been forced to endure during the legal hearings.

The anti-abortion group Pro-Life Campaign said that the case highlighted the need to put in place support "so that no woman feels abortion is the only option open to her".

For me this raises a number of issues.
First off making abortion extremely restricted has not stopped thousands of women travelling abroad every year, just as in the UK before 1967 many women still had abortions, albeit backstreet and dangerous .
So in a predominant Catholic country why aren't they convincing these women with the strength of their argument ? Seems many Catholic women still go ahead and have abortions.

Anti abortionists often use the tactic of chipping away at a woman's right to choose. So they start with a call for reducing time limits to try to seem reasonable. In fact they usually want all abortion to be illegal, in some extreme cases even if the mother's life is at risk. The trauma of being raped or incest seems not to elicit compassion . In this case they have been happy to see a young woman put through a court case and the end result is it has now delayed the abortion by four weeks. So much for being concerned at late abortion.So quite clear they do not want abortion, full stop.

The anti abortion response? Women need more choices . Well yes , perhaps stop being anti contraception for a start! That might help.
But in this case what does that mean. Adoption wasn't an option,the baby would be born and live a few days at most.Some woman may want to go through with the pregnancy and that is their choice and should be supported. This young woman felt her way of coping with a very sad situation was to have an abortion. She seems to know her own mind, why else put herself through this. The health services, whose care she was in, should have offered her support during this time, not made a tragic situation more stressful and lay guilt on her as well.

I'm just glad that the courts came to a sensible conclusion. She has every right to travel to obtain an abortion. I hope now she will be given real support by those whose care she is in.