Ireland denies suicidal rape survivor an abortion and forces her to undergo a C-section

Ireland’s abortion law drew international outrage after the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar a couple years ago. The attention, combined with the long-term advocacy of local and international human rights organizations, spurred the government to ever-so-slightly loosen its restrictions to allow abortion “when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide over a pregnancy.” But the new law didn’t help this teenager:

The unnamed woman, now 18, was reportedly raped as a minor and sought an abortion just eight weeks into her pregnancy. Even after experts found her to be suicidal – a prerequisite for abortion under a new Irish law – she was denied access to the procedure. According to a report by the Sunday Times, the woman, who is not an Irish citizen, believes that the government deliberately delayed her case – both through the state’s decision to ignore psychiatric experts and via her inability to travel because of her legal status – so that she would have to carry the pregnancy at least through the fetus’s viability. After going on a hunger strike, she was forced to undergo a caesarean section at just 25 weeks into her pregnancy.

That’s 17 full weeks after she first sought help.

As Jessica notes, the horrific ordeal shows how inadequate even this small exemption to the country’s strict anti-choice law really is. A member of Ireland’s Doctors for Choice said, “We predicted it would be a bad law, that it was going to be trouble and quickly that’s been proven.” Part of the problem is that the law requires examination of the pregnant person’s mental state by up to seven different doctors, a process which will “not only be overly invasive, confusing and distressing emotionally, it will also be time-consuming.”

It’s also probably no coincidence that this young women, like Halappanavar, is an immigrant. While middle-class Irish citizens can often go to England to end their pregnancies, poor women — who lack the funds — and immigrant women — who lack the papers to easily travel — are often out of luck. The young woman might have been able to get authorization to travel to England under the law and advocates are demanding to know if she was informed of her rights.

As Sarah McCarthy, a spokesperson for Galway Pro-Choice, says, the case “illustrates quite clearly that women are treated as little more than incubators under Irish law.”

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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screenshot of ship from Vessel

Watch the new doc on one doctor’s quest to offer safe abortion where it’s illegal

The new documentary Vessel tells the story of Women on Waves, founded by Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts who sailed the world in an “abortion ship,” offering off-shore medical abortions in the international waters surrounding countries where abortion is outlawed. Her project eventually morphed into Women on Web, which does great, life-saving work by sending abortion pills by mail to people lacking legal access. The film has opened in NYC, and is now available for streaming on iTunes.

Also, be sure to check out this interview with director/producer Diana Whitten on the Community site. As she notes, the story, unfortunately, holds particular relevance in the US today. “Due to recent legislative attacks on reproductive healthcare, the situation for U.S. women in many ...

The new documentary Vessel tells the story of Women on Waves, founded by Dutch doctor Rebecca Gomperts who sailed the world in an “abortion ship,” offering off-shore medical abortions in the international waters surrounding countries where abortion is ...

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Last month, I had an abortion.

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Over at Ebony, Tasha Fierce writes about her experience getting an abortion last month as a Black woman. 

Last month, I had an abortion.

I’ve been a strident advocate for a woman’s right to choose since I was ...