Denied an Abortion: The Questions that Need Answering

On Friday news broke that a suicidal woman delivered a baby by Caesarean section in her second trimester. She had been refused an abortion. It was reported that the panel of experts “determined the life of the mother and the child was not at risk from suicide”, but given the advanced nature of the pregnancy a decision was made to deliver the baby.

This case, which is believed to be one of the first under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, 2013, immediately led to questions being asked. If the panel had deemed the woman’s life to be at risk from suicide and given the advanced stage of the pregnancy it is likely a Caesarean section would have been the only possible outcome given the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution. But if the panel decided there was no risk from suicide why was the Caesarean section carried out?

As additional information became available, across various newspapers, some of which contradicted what had previously been reported it became apparent that (a) trying to explain this story without giving away too many indentifying and personal details would be almost impossible and (b) we may never know exactly what happened, especially at crucial times during this case (more on that later).

On Saturday, the Irish Independent follow-up to their initial story stated that the woman discovered she was pregnant at a late stage. An abortion was refused even though the two psychiatrists on the expert panel “believed that an abortion was justified on suicide grounds, notwithstanding the advanced gestation.” Her life was deemed to be at risk, but an abortion was no longer an option as the pregnancy was too far advanced.

The woman became even more distressed when she was informed that an early delivery rather than an abortion was to be administered. According to the article she began refusing food and liquids. In response the HSE sought a care order as they feared that the woman would starve herself.  In the end, however, she agreed to the early delivery before the care order was finalised.

The Sunday Times (opening paragraphs available here with the rest behind a paywall) reported that the young woman, who is not an Irish citizen and has limited English, became pregnant as a result of rape and sought to have an abortion as soon as she discovered this at eight weeks.

We now have two versions of events. The first being that the woman only discovered she was pregnant late on. The second that the woman found out about her pregnancy at eight weeks and immediately sought an abortion. The woman claims that her request was delayed until it was too late. Her legal status meant that she was unable travel to the UK. A High Court order prohibits the full details of the woman’s circumstances being reported.

It was also reported that following the woman’s refusal of food and liquids the HSE “brought an emergency ex-parte High Court application on Saturday, August 2, seeking orders allowing it to forcibly hydrate the woman to protect her and the unborn baby’s life. It also sought declaratory orders allowing it to carry out certain medical procedures relating to the woman’s pregnancy.”

The hydration order was granted with subsequent reports saying that the order was not implemented because the woman agreed to the Caesarean section.

Over the next few days, the information given about the woman became more personal. She has not been named, but The Guardian published her age and the Irish Independent that she’s an asylum seeker. Could the story have been told without making these things public knowledge? I don’t know, but it seemed that every article had something new that could possibly make the woman identifiable.

In an interview with the young woman The Irish Times have named the agency that she was dealing with before being referred to hospital by a GP after a suicide attempt was interrupted.

While we have heard from the woman herself (although she has still not been named) it can’t have been easy for her to know that her ordeal was news. Did this play a part in her decision to tell her side of the story? Is going public with abortion stories the only way to get anything done in this country? Will any woman who has to rely on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act have the details of her life, if not her name, reported in the media? There has to be a balance between cases that are in the public interest and the privacy of the people involved.

RTE is reporting that the expert panel made a certification under Section 9 of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act that “a termination of pregnancy should take place, by way of Caesarean section.” In other words, the pregnancy was ended, they did their job as far as they’re concerned. The hospital and the consultants involved have not been named.

Bringing me back to the point about a c-section possibly being the only option, under the law, considering the pregnancy was in the second trimester. The guidelines that could answer this have yet to be officially published, although a draft copy was obtained by The Guardian. This is despite the fact that the law came into force eight months ago.

The HSE is to investigate the sequence of events in this case. This could be crucial in finding out what happened in the 12 weeks between discovering she was pregnant and coming to the attention of the HSE at 21-22 weeks. That the HSE assert she only came to their attention in the second trimester may be why the Irish Independent concluded that the woman only discovered her pregnancy late on.

What documents was she told would be arranged for her? Why was the issue of the cost of travelling not mentioned at an earlier stage? Why was it a GP that referred her to hospital and not the agency she had been attending? If the woman shared her suicidal ideation and attempts with this agency what did they do about it?

I hope this report fills in the 12 week gap between when the woman discovered she was pregnant and being examined by the expert panel. Further, that it clears up any inaccuracies. I would not be surprised to see our old friend “systems failures” deemed to have played its part in this case.

We now have a young woman who was already dealing with traumatic circumstances left even more traumatised by the way the State treated her. We have a premature baby who is expected to be taken into care and may face long term health issues as a result of being born at 24-26 weeks.

We have a nation saddened, angered and asking how and why this was allowed to happen, a nation seeking assurances that this doesn’t happen again.

We have said “never again”, far too often. And yet, here we are. Again. The more I think about Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale the less it seems a work of fiction, more a how-to manual.

It was our abortion law, rather than our lack of law, that caused the issue this time. We need to repeal the Eighth Amendment. It won’t be an easy task and it won’t solve the problem immediately, but it’s a good place to start. We need to decide on the type of abortion laws we actually want and need. We need to move forward.

Update – Wednesday, August 20th

Today it was revealed (here and here) that the young woman actually came to the attention of the HSE back in May. Two months earlier than had previously been reported.

What happened between being referred to “a HSE staff member” in late May and when she was examined by the expert panel? What kind of care, if any, did the vulnerable young woman receive during this time?

Will Crisis Pregnancy Agencies be given the protocols they now feel they need when dealing with suicidal pregnant women?

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar wants to read the HSE report before engaging with the case in a detailed way. That report is due at the end of September.

This Week I’ve Been Reading #8

A round up of blog posts, articles and stuff from the internet that caught my attention this week.

On Tuesday, I tweeted about how underfunded our Mental Health Services are. This blog post sums up the difficulties that people face when trying to access services for ongoing and long term mental health issues  – Please Talk To Who? – A thing about mental health treatment in Ireland

As I said in the comment section, I think more of us can relate to this than care to admit it. Even to ourselves. I’m at the tail end of one of those feeling stuck experiences and doing my best focus on the people and things that I wouldn’t change rather than dwell on the things I would, but sometimes that is easier said than done  – Why compare?

On creativity, comparing, figuring stuff out and turning 30 – The Power of 29: An Ode to Being Almost 30

Continuing the comparing ourselves to others theme, here is an article on how we interact with and on social media. I think I’m still trying to find the life/social media balance that’s right for me  – Do You Hate Facebook, Or Do You Hate Your Life?

On Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, an adaptation from Maureen Callahan’s new book ‘Champagne Supernovas’ – Designed for Destruction

This essay, by Molly Beach Murphy, about running a half marathon and the death of her father left me teary-eyed – Two Victors

This is a beautiful piece of writing about anxiety and insomnia – DISPATCHES FROM THE PROZAC RABBIT HOLE: I Am Fighting Sleep, All The Time

A pilot show was made for ‘Not Another High School Show’, starring Alison Brie and Jennifer Lawerence, in 2007. It was never picked up – Welp, Here Is Alison Brie as ‘Muffy, the Vampire Slayer’

The strangest thing I read this week has to be about Andrew Keegan, best known as Joey Donner in ’10 Things I Hate About You’, starting a religion. Yeah, I still have no words for this one! – One of the Stars of ’10 Things I Hate About You’ Started a Religion

Recipe: Honey and Soy Chicken with Quinoa


Quinoa and Chicken

I’ve been cooking this chicken and quinoa dish a lot lately because it’s tasty, quick to prepare and you can add pretty much any veg you like to it. This is a stripped down version, but if I have chilli, mangetout and/or baby corn then I’ll add them. This serves one person, but can easily be adapted for more.


1/4 cup of quinoa

1 1/4 cups of water

1 chicken fillet (finely sliced)

1 tsp of oil

1 glove of garlic (crushed)

small piece of ginger (grated)

scallions (sliced)

2 handfuls of spinach

1/4 tsp of soy sauce (in my case gluten free soy sauce)

1/4 tsp of honey

a pinch of Chinese Five Spice powder


Rinse the quinoa and cook according to the instructions on the packet. For me that was 5 parts water to 1 part quinoa simmered for 20 minutes and then left to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and add the garlic and ginger (if using chilli add it now). Stir for 2-3 minutes.

Add the sliced chicken and stir for a further 4-5 minutes.

Mix the soy sauce, honey and five spice in a bowl and pour into the pan. Stir for 2-3 minutes.

Add the scallions and spinach. Stir until the spinach has wilted.

Add the quinoa, stir until coated and serve.

This Week I’ve Been Reading #7

A round up of blog posts, articles and other things from the internet that caught my attention this week.

Go Read Alice: The History of Diary Novel

How the word ‘this’ evolved into a term of agreement on the internet – The History of This^, #This, and This

On acknowledging your emotions and the restorative power of crying – Sometimes You Need to Cry

Since I discovered her work early last year, Roxane Gay has become one of my favourite essayists. She has two books coming out this year, a book of essays called ‘Bad Feminist’ and ‘An Untamed State’, her debut novel. Ahead of their publication The Guardian wrote this profile of Gay  – Roxane Gay: meet the bad feminist

Juliet Jacques has written an excellent and personal article about the struggle between trans* people and radical feminism – On the “dispute” between radical feminism and trans people

The impact depression can have on a relationship – Depression in Half of a Marriage – What Next?

Review: Bourjois Healthy Mix Radiance Reveal in No. 51 Light Vanilla

I haven’t reviewed a proper foundation in over a year and even then the last few were press samples. That’s because (a) a couple of years ago I made the decision to use up all my open foundations, about 15 bottles/tubes, before buying anymore and (b) I haven’t worn make up on a daily basis in about 18 months, so it took me a while to get through my stash.

When I finally ran out, back in April, I decided to pick up the Bourjois Healthy Mix Radiance Reveal foundation because I had gotten on so well with the original Healthy Mix.

Bourjois Healthy Mix Radiance Reveal Foundation

What Bourjois have to say: 

“Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation has just got even better.

Give your skin a radiance boost and leave it looking flawless for up to 16 hours! Bourjois’ new Radiance Reveal Healthy Mix foundation is enriched with a fruit therapy formula to enhance your complexion.

Apricot for radiance

Melon for hydration

Apple to protect your youth

It is also enriched with crystalline pigments to even out the complexion while letting in natural light for that healthy glowing look.

Its soft, fresh texture easily blends onto the skin for a comfortable flawless finish, leaving you with beautiful, radiant and hydrated skin for 8 hours.”

Bourjois Healthy Mix Radiance Reveal Foundation - Swatches (Shade 51)

What I have to say: 

Colour Match – As I was the lightest shade (No. 51) in the original Healthy Mix I went for the same shade in the Radiance Reveal version. Unfortunately it was too dark for me and no amount of blending could make it work. I don’t know if I’ve gotten paler since using Healthy Mix last, which is always a possibility with me, or if Bourjois deepened the shades during the product revamp. I’d love to know if anyone else has had the same issue.

Texture – It’s nice and light without being watery.

Coverage – This is a medium coverage foundation, but it is buildable if you need to apply a little extra. It blends easily. I used a buffing brush this time, but I’ve used my fingers in the past.

Longevity – It’s supposed to last 16 hours and the original did hold up really well on me, but I couldn’t give Healthy Mix Radiance Reveal a proper longevity test as I wasn’t leaving the house with my face a shade darker than the rest of me.

Price – I’m pretty sure this is €14.99 in my local Boots, but I bought it during a 3 for 2 offer.

Overall – Bourjois have always made some of the best affordable foundations on the market, so I’m disappointed that I couldn’t make this one work. To be honest, apart from the colour match and the move from a plastic to a glass bottle, I can’t say I noticed any other differences from the original formula. The hydration, radiance and dewiness all looked and felt the same to me. But that could be because I thought the original was pretty much perfect to begin with.

Result – Sadly, Healthy Mix Radiance Reveal isn’t the foundation for me because the colour isn’t usable. I’ll be finding a new home for the bottle I have and definitely won’t be repurchasing. Which is a shame.