Dearbhail McDonald The Irish Independent Thursday May 10th 2007
YOUNG and old; legal and lay, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, and everything in between.
There wasn't even standing room yesterday at Dublin's Four Courts to hear Judge Liam McKechnie hand down his ruling in Ireland's latest abortion controversy.
The one glaring absence amongst the 100 or so people who tried to cram into court 14 was Miss D, the 17-year-old girl who is 18 weeks pregnant with a baby that is destined to die.
Miss D had dutifully attended court on previous occasions and listened intently to five heavyweight legal teams debate her fate as she placed a protective arm over her growing baby bump and wiped tears with her free hand.
But after being hounded by pro-life and pro-choice activists (inside and out of court) earlier this week, the pretty teenager who had attended court with her boyfriend, left it to her mother and a family friend to accept the verdict on her behalf.
Gaunt and earnest, D's mother, known as Miss A, was ushered to the front of the courtroom to hear Judge McKechnie hold that there is no statutory or constitutional impediment preventing her second eldest daughter from travelling to England for an abortion.
Occasionally, nature gets it wrong and babies die. Mishaps, such as the fatal brain condition anencephaly that claims newborn victims within minutes or days of their short lives, can and do occur.
To the horror of the rosary bead-holding "pro-lifers", Judge McKechnie said that the case was not about abortion or the termination of pregnancy.
It is a case about the right to travel. It was not about the desire to terminate a healthy foetus and definitely not about the lives of children - born and unborn - who suffer from disabilities. It is a case about the right to travel and that right takes precedence over the rights of the unborn whose right to life is guaranteed in the Constitution.
D's mother, miraculous medal tied to a piece of string in hand, hung her head in relief when she realised that her daughter was free to go, but pursed her lips as the judge outlined what she already knew: that her daughter's ordeal isn't over.
In many ways, it is only just beginning.
Now they will have to make arrangements: book a cheap flight and leave the country to terminate the much loved, much wanted, but ultimately doomed unborn baby who nature betrayed.