In late 2016, a teenager in Ireland found out that she was pregnant. She went to the capital Dublin with her mother seeking an abortion. However, she ended up in a mental institution for the next few months, held against her will.
The incident recently came to light, revealing another facet of Ireland’s abortion laws that have been widely criticized globally. It was a part of a report released earlier this week by a nongovernmental organization called Child Care Law Reporting Project.
According to the report, the teenager was first evaluated by a psychiatrist who declared that she was suicidal and depressed. He sent the girl and her mother to Dublin, where they thought the abortion would be done.
Instead, she was retained in a psychiatric ward as per the country’s Mental Health Act which allows doctors to detain suicidal people against their will. Several days later, she was released only after a district court declared that she no longer had any mental health issue. The report did not mention what happened to the girl or her baby eventually.
A statement of Ireland’s Abortion Rights Campaign Linda Kavanagh accompanied the mention of this incident in the report. “It’s hard not to think that the psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs. It is clear we need some process which ensures medical professionals with such conscientious objections cannot block timely health care in critical cases,” she said.
Only a few days ago, United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) stated that Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws are a human rights violation. The country only allows abortion in case a mother can prove that the pregnancy presents an immediate threat to her life.