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Pregnant woman with '15% chance of delivery' given list of UK hospitals to get abortion, Dáil hears

Ruth Coppinger TD told the Dáil she had been contacted by a woman who shared her story.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

SOLIDARITY TD RUTH Coppinger has told the Dáil that a pregnant woman went to the UK to secure an abortion despite being told in an Irish hospital that she had only a 15% chance of delivery.

Coppinger said the woman was told, following a scan in Portiuncula Hospital, that possible Edwards syndrome was detected and that the baby “might live only an hour or so”.

She was told, Coppinger said, that doctors “could not do anything” because her pregnancy was beyond 12 weeks.

The deputy said the woman, who she referred to as ‘Mary’, was then given “the names of three hospitals in England”.

Most babies with Edwards’ syndrome will die before or shortly after being born.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, the deputy said the woman subsequently made an appointment but that this was made “at great expense” and also required making work arrangements.

Coppinger said the woman told her: “I’d lose my head if I had to continue this pregnancy but Ireland will do nothing for me.”  

Coppinger said she has been contacted by a number of women with similar “tragic foetal diagnoses” who have been “left outside the law”.

The deputy asked the Taoiseach:

Why, in this country, is such a distinction made between fatal and severe abnormalities that isn’t made in other countries? One of the women, who is a nurse, asks ‘who makes the decisions?’, about what conditions get on the list to decide what is a fatal foetal abnormality?    

Under legislation passed by the Dáil last year, a woman may have an abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality:

where two medical practitioners, having examined the pregnant woman, are of the reasonable opinion formed in good faith that there is present a condition affecting the foetus that is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before, or within 28 days of, birth. 

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the case she raised represented “a very private and personal matter” but that the difference between fatal and severe abnormalities was discussed before legislation was passed. 

“That was a decision that was discussed here in the Oireachtas and we as an Oireachtas, and you were a participant in all those debates which is why you should know the answer to your own question, we decided as an Oireachtas that disability would not be grounds for the termination of a pregnancy, but a fatal abnormality would be. And severe abnormality is very often a disability,” Varadkar said. 

Coppinger previously raised in the Dáil the case of a woman who was 14 weeks pregnant and had received a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality but was denied an abortion at the Coombe Hospital in Dublin. 

In that case, Coppinger said that the abortion was signed off by two doctors. 

The hospital said later that it had not started delivering abortion services to patients, despite the HSE and Department of Health’s work to have them operational by 1 January 2019. 

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Rónán Duffy

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