Ann O'Loughlin The Irish Independent Tuesday May 8th 2007
A DISTRICT judge refused at the weekend to grant an order allowing the 17-year-old girl at the centre of the latest abortion controversy to travel to the UK for an abortion.
The new development in the case was outlined to a special sitting of the High Court yesterday.
In an extraordinary twist, it also emerged that the Health Service Executive, which only last week moved to stop the four months' pregnant teenager leaving the country, has mounted a High Court challenge to the district judge's refusal.
It was the third day of the legal challenge by the teen - known as Miss D - over the right to travel to the UK for an abortion.
She is four months' pregnant with a baby suffering from anencephaly, which means a major part of its brain is missing and it can only live at most three days after delivery.
At the outset yesterday, counsel for the HSE, Gerard Durkan, said an application had been made during in-camera proceedings by the HSE for a direction under the Child Care Act on whether it would be lawful for Miss D to travel to the UK for a termination.
Mr Justice Liam McKechnie ruled that because the application did not touch on the care order, a summary of the arguments and the decision could be given to the High Court in public yesterday. Mr Durkan said the application was made on Saturday morning and the district judge heard submissions from all parties before giving his decision.
The district judge said he was satisfied the granting of an order allowing the girl to travel to the UK in this case would amount to a failure of the court to vindicate the rights of the unborn. He was satisfied that the granting of such an order would be improper and unlawful.
Mr Durkan said the HSE position was that it was not in the interests of Miss D to stop her travelling to the UK for a termination.
In its submissions to the district court, the State said an order from that court was unnecessary. The girl's travel would be lawful, the State said.
On Saturday afternoon, Mr Durkan said the HSE considered the position and concluded the district judge was wrong in law in the way in which he dealt with the matter and his conclusion that Miss D's travel would not be lawful.
On Sunday, the HSE went to the High Court and was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the district judge's order.
On behalf of the HSE, Mr Durkan said it was their view that a court order was required to authorise the girl to travel; the HSE had taken those steps and tried to get the order but had not been successful.
He asked that this part of the case be dealt with immediatedly and the girl's right to travel clarified.
He said there was an "obvious stress" to Miss D.
Counsel for Miss D said they would now be seeking that the order of the district court be quashed as well as a declaration that the girl had a right to travel.