A hospital in Dublin has refused an abortion to a woman with a fatal foetal abnormality, raising questions over Ireland’s recent introduction of abortion services.
The Coombe hospital, a leading maternity facility that has signed up to the service, reportedly declined to terminate the pregnancy because it did not “fall neatly” into a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis.
The woman said she planned to travel to England with her partner for an abortion next week, a journey made by generations of Irish women before her, but which was supposed to no longer be necessary. GPs and hospitals started offering abortion services on 1 January, six months after Ireland voted in a landslide to lift a constitutional ban.
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Read moreTwo politicians revealed the case in the Dáil, the lower house of the Irish parliament, on Thursday after being contacted by the woman.
“Her words to me were: ‘This is not what I voted for. I have constitutional rights,’” Bríd Smith, of the People Before Profit party, told the chamber. “She is finding it hard to sleep, knowing the condition her much-wanted child is in. She wants a termination. She is entitled to it. This country voted for it. It is the law.”
The other politician, Ruth Coppinger of Solidarity, said that when the woman went for a scan at 13 weeks doctors saw that the organs of the foetus were outside the body. She returned for another scan a week later and the diagnosis was confirmed, said Coppinger.
“One doctor, her consultant, and then another consultant were brought in and said, yes, it is a fatal foetal abnormality. A week later it went to the board and the board has overruled that.”
The Irish Examiner, citing sources close to the woman, said hospital officials told her the pregnancy could not be terminated because it did not “fall neatly into a fatal foetal abnormality” diagnosis.
Under the new system GPs provide abortions to women up to nine weeks of pregnancy and hospitals perform terminations at between nine and 12 weeks, after which abortions are allowed only in exceptional circumstances.
Pro-choice activists have complained the legislation is too restrictive and vague and could make doctors unsure about whether or not to terminate pregnancies.
In a statement the Coombe hospital said it did not comment on individual cases but that its board had no role in certifying abortions.
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said the law was clear and consistent with last year’s referendum. “So hospitals in Ireland have an obligation to make decisions in a way that is consistent with that new legislation.”