Ireland and abortion: Flaring up

A YOUNG foreign migrant who moved to Ireland earlier this year found after arriving that she was pregnant. She said she had been raped in her native country. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had few friends and was too poor to travel abroad. Her English was minimal, and she became a socially isolated figure. As a rape victim who was pregnant and later became suicidal, she tried for many weeks to secure an abortion. She was refused.Ireland’s highly restrictive abortion law allows a termination only in very limited circumstances: where a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother exists (including that of suicide in pregnancy). This month the young woman’s 25-week pregnancy ended when her baby, whom she did not want, was delivered by Caesarean section. She claimed in a newspaper interview that while pregnant she had attempted suicide and refused food and water in a vain bid to get an abortion.The latest flare-up over abortion in Ireland has left the government embarrassed, as it struggles to explain why state agencies rejected the mother’s request. The episode revives an issue that first caused controversy more than 30 years ago and still sharply divides public opinion. In 1983 the Irish people voted in a referendum to amend the constitution to make abortion illegal. But in 1992 the Irish Supreme Court decided that abortion was permissible when the…

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