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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

May-04-07

Ireland's High Court to Hear Case Over Teen's Right to Abortion

A 17-year-old Irish girl petitioned Ireland's High Court yesterday for the right to travel to England to obtain an abortion, which remains illegal in Ireland even in cases of rape, incest, and severe fetal anomalies. The girl, known in the media as "Miss D," has been in the custody of Ireland's Health Services Executive (HSE) since February after being removed from her mother's care due to incidents of abuse. Four months pregnant, Miss D -- who had planned to carry her pregnancy to term -- discovered in April that the fetus is afflicted with a rare brain defect and has no chance of survival, but the HSE won't allow her to leave the country to seek an abortion. The fetus' condition, called anencephaly, prevents sections of the brain and skull from forming and is always fatal; babies born with anencephaly are generally blind, deaf, and unconscious, and can only survive a maximum of three days outside the womb.

Since 2002, three minors in state custody have been permitted to leave Ireland for abortions after demonstrating that the pregnancy threatened their life or rendered them suicidal. Miss D has told the court that although she is not suicidal, it would be "inhumane" to be forced to continue with the pregnancy DPE, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports. She claims the HSE's mandate has deprived her of a right to her personal autonomy. According to the Attorney General, the HSE does not have the authority to restrict Miss D's travel. The Attorney General has, however, moved to have the "unborn child" represented in the hearing, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

According to the Irish Examiner, Miss D's Senior Counsel Eoghan Fitzsimons told the court, "She's being denied rights guaranteed to every citizen because she is under 18 and subject to a care order. It is discrimination of the highest order."

Miss D's case has reignited the abortion debate in the predominately Catholic country, which has some of the strictest abortion regulations in Europe.

Media Resources: Belfast Telegraph 5/3/07, 5/1/07; Deutsche Presse-Agentur 5/3/07; The Guardian (UK) 5/1/07; Irish Examiner 5/3/07


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