This Act allows abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, including risk of suicide.
Once it is determined that a woman’s life is at risk due to suicide, a doctor and two psychiatrists have to unanimously agree that termination of a pregnancy is the solution.
And this system is failing. It is barbaric, perpetuates shame on already vulnerable women and is not working. The horrific story of a teenager recently held against her will shows just how unworkable the PLDPA is.
We know from court documents that a mother and daughter (minor) contacted healthcare professionals as the young woman’s pregnancy was making her suicidal. The mother and daughter were then transferred to Dublin under the presumption of acquiring an abortion for the young woman.
On arrival the young woman was sectioned under the Mental Health Act 2001. The PLDPA was not invoked. Although the woman was at risk of self-harm and suicide the psychiatrist said “this could be managed by treatment and that termination of pregnancy was not the solution at this stage”.
Our Bodies – Not Our Choice
This young woman’s freedom and choices were completely taken away from her. The stress of the pregnancy was already making her feel suicidal and on a single psychiatrist’s word she was then sectioned. Fortunately, a second psychiatrist saw the young girl and deemed that she should not be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. She was then discharged.
We don’t know if she received the abortion she so desperately wanted, but we do know that if she did receive the necessary healthcare it was certainly delayed by the inability of Irish law to allow women choice in pregnancy.
How can we expect the law regarding abortion and suicide to work if access to it requires your psychiatrist to be pro-choice?
What was the intention in the first psychiatrist’s intervention?
It wasn’t in the best interest of the young woman and was stripping her of all her rights just because she wanted an abortion.
Was she just to be sectioned until she gave birth? Was that the cure for her suicidal tendencies?
What would be the outcome?
Are we to accept that a young woman being locked up and forced through a pregnancy that impacts upon every part of her being will in any way make a positive impact on her life? Is this saving a life or ruining a life? Ireland, a country that forces children to have children!
When this young woman was at her most vulnerable and her life was at risk, her cries for help were ignored.
Not Suicidal Enough
Recently the Abortion Support Network has reported similar instances of barriers to accessing abortion under the PLDPA. Two women who required visas to leave the country had told their medical professionals that they were suicidal and wanted an abortion. They were denied abortions under the PLDPA as they were told “they weren’t suicidal enough”.
One woman was granted an abortion after her third suicide attempt, the first two attempts not being sufficient evidence of how much the pregnancy was affecting her life.
The second woman was initially denied an abortion under the PLDPA and eventually granted one. Both of their terminations happened later in the pregnancies than they should have.
So how worthy do you need to be to have an abortion in Ireland? How suicidal is suicidal enough?
Why in Ireland, even within the law, are we allowing women to be treated so horrifically? Time and again the state victimises women who need bodily autonomy.
If we continue to put conditions in place for women to access abortion, women will continue to not meet these conditions.
We know 26 women had abortions in Ireland in 2016 under the PLDPA but there are no records on the number of women who were refused abortions or who were sectioned for asking for one.
Ireland’s abortion laws are like a ticking time bomb waiting for the next tragic case to be revealed.
Free, Safe and Legal access to abortion in Ireland is the only way we can protect women.
- Read accompanying article Mobilise for free safe and legal abortion