Abortion debate revived after woman’s forced C-section

Demonstrators hold placards and candles in memory of Savita Halappanavar during a march to Irish Parliament in Dublin on Nov 17, 2012.
Demonstrators hold placards and candles in memory of Savita Halappanavar during march to  Parliament, Dublin on Nov 17, 2012.

By staff reporter

IRELAND’s Justice Minister has voiced her concern after a pregnant suicidal woman was legally forced at just 25 weeks to have a Caesarean section.

Thought to be young and in a vulnerable state, the woman is thought to have requested the abortion in her second trimester.

She had claimed she was suicidal, and was worried about her family would react to the news that she was pregnant.

After she was 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, however, had deemed the termination necessary but the consultant obstetrician involved did not agree and the baby was delivered by Caesarean section. The baby was born at about 25 weeks and will be taken into state care.

The young woman had staged a hunger strike, during which the HSE went to the high court to prevent the woman from starving herself. Eventually, she consented to having the baby delivered by C-section.

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 following the 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.


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