Ireland Denies Abortion to Suicidal Girl — Will the US Follow Suit?

Before the United States affirmed that a pregnant person has the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, individuals who sought abortions often had to plead their cases in front of a hospital panel, whose members would then decide whether or not the circumstances merited the procedure. Women tried to convince doctors of the serious hardships they would face physically or mentally — and even then, doctors were within their rights to deny the abortion for any reason at all.

Thankfully, those days are in the past — and hopefully they will stay there. But a quick glimpse at Ireland, a country where abortion is completely illegal in all circumstances, clearly shows just where U.S. abortion opponents hope to push our own laws.

And if they do, pleading for an abortion, even in the most dire of circumstances, will still get a pregnant person nowhere — except, perhaps, a mental ward.

According to the Child Law Project, a young girl in Ireland was sent to a mental ward rather than a hospital for an abortion, after a psychiatrist ruled that her pregnancy was endangering her life by making her suicidal. Somehow, the professional’s best solution was to offer her mental health services rather than an abortion.

“A consultant psychiatrist, on whose evidence she was detained, said a termination was ‘not the solution for all the child’s problems at this stage.,’” reports the Journal. “The psychiatrist was of the opinion that the child was at risk of self harm and suicide as a result of the pregnancy and this could be managed by treatment. The girl’s guardian ad litem – a person who supports children to have their voices heard in legal proceedings and makes an assessment – employed a second consultant psychiatrist. The second consultant psychiatrist found she was depressed but that there was no evidence of a psychological disorder.”

While the detention of the girl against her and her guardian’s will appears extreme, the denial of abortions for those who say they will hurt or kill themselves if they are forced to remain pregnant is sadly commonplace in the country.

Even risk of suicide is rarely considered a serious enough health issue to merit an abortion under Irish law. Many women who seek a termination will travel out of the country to end the pregnancy — that is, if they have the physical and financial means.

The move to actually detain someone for the sake of her “mental health” suggests that abortion opponents aim to close even that small loophole and force a person to give birth — starting with those with the least power.

We saw it happen just a few years earlier when a pregnant rape victim was forced into an unwanted 25-week gestation cesarean section after being denied an abortion for suicidal thoughts. The pregnant woman, who was an immigrant, was also placed in a hospital and offered “treatment,” causing her to refuse to eat and attempt to starve herself to death.

“The case demonstrates the lengths that Ireland will go to maintain their control over women’s lives,” The Independent reported. “In this case we have a forced, severely pre-term birth of a child that is at risk of an early death and significant disability. Is this really preferable to the termination of an unwanted pregnancy, where the mother’s life is at risk?”

Both cases rightfully been declared human rights violations by the United Nations. Yet American abortion opponents consistently point to Ireland as the model for making abortion entirely illegal — and one that the U.S. should follow.

They even explicitly refuse to allow abortion for mental health reasons, stating, “While pregnancy can be a stressful experience and sometimes bring on or exacerbate depression, psychological stress should not be ‘treated’ by abortion. Psychiatrists and psychologists need to treat mental health issues directly.”

Abortion is still legal in the U.S. — for now — but we know that, given the option, the religious right would have our rules resemble those of Ireland in a heartbeat. And, yes, they would be more than willing to commit human rights violations in the name of “saving” babies from not being born.

Photo Credit: Larissa Puo/Flickr

100 comments

Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing

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Misss D
Misss D5 months ago

It is disgusting that anyone would think of defunding a programme that tries to prevent teenage pregnancy. Whilst I am on this thread, I think it pertinent to point out that Boots, the pharmaceutical chain in Britain, is refusing to drop the price of the morning after pill purely due to pressure from extreme anti-choice activists. Boots does stated it does not want to be accused of making the m-a pill easily accessible. I will be writing to them on this matter and to tell them that I will be taking my custom to their biggest rival and give them all the reasons why.

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Karen H
Karen H6 months ago

Here's another fact that shows how much Trump cares for women. His administration has gutted nearly $214 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs across the country. That will mean more teen pregnancies and more abortions. It's time for ALL of us--pro-choice and anti-abortion--to pressure the administration to provide pregnancy prevention services.

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Karen H
Karen H6 months ago

You're so right, Misss D. These are the same people who don't want young people to have access to comprehensive sex education or contraception, and we know "abstinence only" doesn't work. When I worked at a clinic I counseled a teenage girl on menstruation, because she had no idea what it was or why she got it. She was sexually active, which means she probably had no idea what "contraception" even was.

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Misss D
Misss D6 months ago

Hiya Karen, thanks for replying and I am so glad you haven't taken offence as none was intended at all. It so frustrating that people try to restrict abortion access whilst at the same time actually creating the conditions that result in an increase in demand for abortion. Women are left in a catch-22!

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Karen H
Karen H6 months ago

You're right, Misss D, and no offense taken. My question is redundant. Having worked at a family planning clinic, I still find people's ignorance and bigotry infuriating, which is why I lash out. We didn't offer abortion, and if a PT (pregnancy test) was positive, we were required to give the woman (sometimes a teenager) two phone numbers: the pre-natal clinic and the abortion clinic. It was her choice which she called, and we strongly encouraged her to return for contraception counseling. When I see people like Lenore and Margie totally ignorant to the difference between a non-viable fetus and a viable baby, it twists my gut. My misrepresentatives (most notably Marco Rubio) say, "No abortion, no matter what", yet they deny women access to contraception, offer no support to single moms, do little or nothing to stop the rape culture, and are pushing Trumpcare, which considers rape and pregnancy "pre-existing conditions". Where's the help for these poor women and girls? No wonder some feel suicide is their only solution. Rather than offer help, clergy and doctors and legislators throw these women in mental wards, and people like Lenore and Margie chastise them without any sympathy or knowledge of their situation. Grrrr.

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Clare O
Clare O6 months ago

No child who has been raped should be forced to carry a baby.

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Clare O
Clare O6 months ago

I have not heard about this but in Ireland the legal age for sex is 17. So if the girl is younger I would be very keen to get her statutory rapist - or real rapist - arrested. Even if he is also her own age, that doesn't make it legal, good or safe - obviously. Nobody of that age is financially or physically or mentally appropriate to have and raise a baby in my opinion.

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Kathleen England
Kathleen E6 months ago

Ireland, come into the 21 Century.

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Miss D
Misss D6 months ago

Sounds like you're reading some weird articles/schools of thought there, Kay B!

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