NEWS

Irish Teenager Who Asked For An Abortion Was Sectioned Under Mental Health Act

She was held in a mental health unit against her will.

13/06/2017 13:17 | Updated 13 June 2017

An Irish teenager who requested an abortion was instead sectioned and held in a mental health unit against her will.

The girl, whose name has not been released, was seen by a consultant psychiatrist who “was of the opinion that while the child was at risk of self-harm and suicide as a result of the pregnancy, this could be managed by treatment and that termination of the pregnancy was not the solution for all of the child’s problems at that stage.”

The girl and her mother had believed they were being “transferred to Dublin for a termination and she was very agitated when she found that she was being admitted to a mental health unit.”

Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters
Demonstrators take part in a protest to urge the Irish Government to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution in September 2016 

The incident, reported by the Child Care Law Reporting Project which examines child care proceedings in Irish courts, is believed to have occurred in late 2016.

Ireland has strict Catholic-influenced abortion laws, which give the foetus the same constitutional rights as the mother under the Eighth Amendment.

They prohibit abortion even in cases of rape, incest or ill health of the mother, allowing consideration only in cases where the mother’s life is in immediate danger under the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy act.

Under the Irish constitutional ban on abortion, the foetus is regarded as a citizen and doctors are required to take all possible measures to protect its life. The Eighth Amendment can only be repealed by a popular referendum.

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The foetus has the same constitutional rights as the mother under the Eighth Amendment (file picture)

As CNN points out, under this law the girl could have arguably been able to access an abortion, having been assessed as suicidal.

The girl, who had “very strong views as to why she wanted a termination of her pregnancy” was released several days later after a district judge ruled she “did not suffer a mental health disorder”.

Abortion Rights Campaign spokesman Linda Kavanagh said the group was “disgusted” and “deeply concerned” by the matter.

She added: “Looking at the report, it’s hard not to think that the psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs. It is clear we need some process which ensures medical professionals with such conscientious objections cannot block timely health care in critical cases.”

‘It’s hard not to think that the psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs’

Irish doctors have appealed for decades for clearer legal guidelines on when they may terminate a pregnancy. Thousands of Irish women travel to the UK every year for abortions.

The news comes as the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) issued a ruling that Ireland’s harsh abortion laws violated the human rights of Siobhan Whelan, who was forced to travel to the UK for an abortion in 2010.

Gauri Van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director said: “… It is outrageous that women have to go to the UN to have their human rights respected. How many more women will suffer before the Irish government opens its eyes?

 “The majority of people in Ireland consider the near-total abortion ban to be cruel, inhumane and discriminatory. It is long past time for the government to let them have their say by scheduling a referendum on the issue.”

The ruling comes just weeks after the Citizens’ Assembly, a public forum convened by the government to consider a number of issues including Ireland’s abortion laws, recommended that the Eighth Amendment be removed from the Constitution.

The Assembly recommended abortion on request at least in early pregnancy and for a wide range of circumstances in later stages of pregnancy. Its recommendations would meet the minimum requirements of international human rights law and guarantee an abortion framework that ensures safe and timely access to abortion services for all women and girls both in law and in practice. However, Amnesty is also calling for abortion to be fully decriminalised in full compliance with international human rights law and standards.  

Van Gulik added: “Thousands of women and girls are forced to travel abroad every year to seek abortions, treated like criminals and traumatised by the shame and stigma that result from these laws.

“The Irish government must take heed of today’s ruling, and commit to respecting women’s rights by allowing people in Ireland the opportunity to repeal the Eighth Amendment in a referendum.”

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