A teenage Irish girl seeking an abortion in Dublin in late 2016 was instead held in a mental health facility for days, according to a recent report from Ireland's Child Care Law Reporting Project.
CNN writes that the girl, who is a minor and is not being identified in news reports, was evaluated by a psychiatrist as depressed and suicidal. The psychiatrist sent her to Dublin, accompanied by her mother. The girl and her mother believed they were traveling so the girl could get an abortion, but upon arrival, the girl was placed into a mental health facility and was detained for days. Yes, plural, days.
The psychiatrist was able to do this because of the Mental Health Act, which allows lets medical professionals to have patients admitted to mental health facilities against their will. The Child Care Law Reporting Project writes, “The consultant psychiatrist 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.”
In the mental health facility, the girl was diagnosed by another psychiatrist who said that she “presented as being depressed” but did not have a psychological disorder and simply wanted an abortion. Via the Child Care Law Reporting Project:
“That consultant psychiatrist was of the opinion that the young girl presented as being depressed, however, there was no evidence of a psychological disorder and she was dealing with her depression well. This consultant psychiatrist was of the opinion that the young girl was not suicidal and was not in immediate danger of committing suicide. The consultant psychiatrist concluded that as the young girl did not have a mental illness she could not be detained under the Mental Helath Act. The consultant psychiatrist also reported that the young girl had very strong views as to why she wanted a termination of her pregnancy.”
Ireland’s Abortion Rights Campaign spokeswoman Linda Kavanagh told CNN, "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."
Abortion is illegal in Ireland unless carrying a pregnancy threatens the parent's life. But cases like this one prove that even when a pregnancy does threaten the parent’s life, sometimes doctors withhold vital medical care because of their own beliefs about abortion.
According to the Guardian, the UN recently ruled against Ireland in a 2010 case in which a woman, Siobhan Whelan, was denied an abortion after her fetus was found to have abnormalities that meant that if carried to term, it would either be stillborn or die at birth.
“The human rights committee has found that what happened to me was a human rights violation,” Whelan said. “It has recognised that Ireland’s abortion laws can cause women intense suffering, violating our most basic human rights.”
Amnesty International’s Deputy Europe Director Gauri Van Gulik said, in response to the ruling, “While we welcome this ruling, it is outrageous that women have to go to the UN to have their human rights respected. How many more women will have to 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.”
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