By Hilary White

  DUBLIN, May 1, 2007 ( – An Irish High Court Justice, Mr. Justice Liam McKechnie, has allowed a 17 year-old mother to bring an action against the Irish national health service to allow her travel to Britain to abort her unborn child diagnosed with anencephaly. Abortion for “severely” disabled children has no legal gestational limit in Britain.

  The mother, who can be legally identified only as “Miss D” has been in the care of the HSE under an interim care order since March will bring her case to court on Thursday morning.

  Anencephaly is a rare disorder occurring in approximately one in one thousand pregnancies in which the child’s brain is only partially formed. Recent statistics show that since abortion is legal nearly everywhere in the west, about 95 per cent are killed before birth although anencephalic children are usually able to come to full term.

  About 25% of anencephalic children allowed to live to the end of the pregnancy die during delivery; 50% have a life expectancy of between a few minutes and 1 day, 25% live up to 10 days. Anencephalic children present little or no threat to the health of the mother.

  The Irish Examiner reports that Miss D claimed in court that HSE had told her that the gardai would be asked to prevent her from leaving the country for an abortion, unless she was suicidal. Donal O’Donnell SC, appearing for the Attorney General, however, claimed the HSE had no legal power to detain her.

  Miss D will undergo a psychiatric and possibly a medical examination today. Her counsel, Gerard Hogan SC, stated that, although she is “deeply distressed” she is not suicidal.

  Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland, with the right to life of the unborn protected by the constitution. The 1983 Pro-Life Amendment asserted an explicit constitutional right to life for the unborn child equal to that of the mother. There is no restriction, however, on women traveling to Britain to abort their unwanted children.

  In 1992, the so-called “X case” established that a minor who claims to be suicidal at the thought of giving birth, may be sent out of the country to obtain an abortion at the expense of the state. In that case, the Supreme Court interpreted the Pro-Life Amendment as giving a “right” to abortion in certain limited circumstances when the woman’s life was in danger.

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