Caoimhe Haughey Solicitor claims religious influence in Ms Y baby case

Religious influence was "significantly at play" in the case of a pregnant asylum seeker who was denied an abortion in Ireland even though she was suicidal, her solicitor has claimed.

Medical records suggest that the woman known as Ms. Y was questioned while in hospital about her religious beliefs and asked whether her baby "deserved a life" as doctors considered whether to terminate her pregnancy.

Caoimhe Haughey, Ms. Y's solicitor, claimed that, in her opinion, this amounted to religious influence.

"There is no doubt in my mind that religious influences and interference were significantly at play, given the fact that my client had her own religious belief, given the fact that her own religious belief was mentioned to her in a way that, in my opinion, was done with a view to make her feel guilty and ashamed," she said.

"She was told that the baby only needed her until it was born. And what is clear to me is that they were delaying carrying out any procedure on my client, notwithstanding promises to the contrary, in order to improve the viability situation for the baby."

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had no knowledge of the allegations and it appeared they had not been raised previously.

A HSE review of the case was abandoned following a legal challenge by Ms. Y. It is understood that an independent review of the legal approach taken in the case has been completed.

Ms. Haughey made a submission on Ms. Y's case to the Citizens' Assembly, which last weekend recommended allowing abortion in a range of circumstances.

Her case provoked national debate on Ireland's new abortion laws when it became public in 2014. The young woman discovered she was pregnant weeks after arriving in Ireland in March of that year. She said she had been raped in her home country and sought an abortion. She was alone and spoke no English and attempted suicide.

Despite interaction with various agencies, she was 22 weeks' pregnant when she was referred for assessment for a termination on grounds of suicide. She repeatedly requested an abortion but was ultimately told her pregnancy was too advanced. Her baby was delivered prematurely by caesarean and is in State care.

The case highlighted the legal anomaly doctors faced in balancing the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act with the constitutional requirement of protecting the life of the unborn where "practicable".

Contemporaneous medical records noted how doctors "hoped to maintain the patient on the ward" until the foetus was viable.

Another record said: "We will have to make her an involuntary patient and keep her against her will."

A clinical decision had been made to remove the baby by caesarean when lawyers became involved, the records show. The medical records disclose that Ms. Y was asked if she wanted to see a priest, which she declined. On another occasion, she was asked: "Do you think the baby deserves a life?" The notes also record how she was told by a doctor that the "abortion would not take the rape away".

Ms. Y continues to suffer trauma as a result of her experiences around the birth of her baby, according to her statement of claim.

She has suffered "very significant and permanent psychiatric injuries" as a result of being "denied a termination" and "coerced into prolonging her pregnancy".

She has "continuing dreams about her baby which cause her to wake up". The woman is suing the Health Service Executive and 10 other agencies on several grounds, including alleged negligence, breach of duty and false imprisonment.

Ms. Haughey said she made a submission on her client's case to the Citizens' Assembly because she believes the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act "does not work".

"It is not workable to put a subjective decision into the hands of three individuals, two psychiatrists and one obstetrician who differ from case to case," she said.

"It is an impossible position to put doctors in."

Independent.ie 30th April 2017