It is with horror and not a little fear that I try to understand what happened to a young woman in our country recently. Faced with a crisis pregnancy and for reasons which we are not able to disclose, this young woman was not in a position (as so many thousands of Irish women have done, and continue to do, before her) to head to the UK or further afield to get the medical attention she wanted.
She only discovered that she was actually pregnant during her second trimester and consequently became suicidal. Under our new, much touted compassionate legislation – so hard fought for, so grudgingly given – this young woman should have been allowed to have a termination within this State if three expert professionals on a panel agreed that there was indeed a risk to her life if she proceeded with her pregnancy.
She presented herself to the three expert professionals – but that still didn’t work.
That should have been the end to the girl’s trauma, but then, seemingly, the consultant obstetrician on the panel ruled against the two psychiatrists That’s correct. The person who is not at all qualified to comment on the mental health or suicidal risk of a patient got to call the shots. This person decided that the pregnancy was probably far enough for the baby to survive outside the womb. The law provides that once a baby can survive outside the womb then its right to life must also be taken into consideration.
So she stopped drinking and eating, so the state forced fluids on her, and she gave up and agreed to the C-section.
In the eyes, once again, of this State, she was not a human being with rights, devastating problems and a condition that could kill her – she was just a vessel who would be forced to give birth. During the debate to legislate for the X-Case I asked, A) as a woman who has been pregnant and B) as a women who has experienced mental illness, why I should not be given the right to life under the constitution?
Am I somehow a lesser person, with fewer rights under Irish law because my life-threatening illness is mental and not physical? I recall asking, if I became pregnant and suffered from suicidal ideation, would I be kept in a “pregnancy mill” until I could be delivered of a live baby?
I thought that the new legislation would mean women who were genuinely found to be in danger of death by suicide would be treated as people and not just baby-carriers.