Irish Times Breaking News
Last Updated: 10/05/2007 18:10
HSE to examine 'Miss D' court ruling
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said it will examine the legal implications of yesterday's 'Miss D' High Court judgment and will see what changes may be required in its own procedures and practices in dealing with such cases.
The health body also defended its handling of the case and said it took what it believed to be the "correct course of action" in terms of the constraints imposed on it by law in relation to the girl, who was in its care.
It had originally told the young woman involved in the case she could not travel for an abortion without its consent and that she could be constrained, by force if necessary, if she attempted to do so.
In a statement, the HSE said it would continue to offer the 17-year-old girl who had sought the right to travel to Britain for an abortion, "care and emotional support which it is in a position to make available".
"The HSE will carefully study the judgment of the court to see what changes, if any, may be required in our procedures and practices for dealing with such cases," the statement said.
"The HSE were at all times anxious to act in Miss D's best interest and from the outset made every effort in terms of how her welfare could best be protected having due regard to legal consequences.
Given the lack of legal clarity in this country regarding travel for abortion, the HSE had sought legal advice.
"This advice considered that an order of the District Court was necessary. The HSE acted in accordance in what they believed to be the correct course of action in terms of the constraints imposed on us by law."
Minister for Health Mary Harney said today she does not believe the issue of legislating on the subject of abortion will be revisited for a long time to come.
Reacting to the High Court judgment yesterday in the 'Miss D' case, Ms Harney said a referendum held on the issue in 2002 had been "fair and balanced and reasonable" and was defeated by the people.
The 17-year-old woman in the 'Miss D' case had sought the right to travel to Britain for an abortion. She is carrying a foetus that has a brain-stem abnormality called anencephaly, which means her baby would not live for more than a number of days after birth.
Asked today whether she believed whichever party or parties were in government after the election would now have to legislate on the abortion question, Ms Harney said: "We had a referendum a few years ago which I think was fair and balanced and reasonable and it was defeated by the people.
"And in this debate, it tends to be dominated by extremes on both sides. I do not believe for the foreseeable future we will have legislation in this area, for one simple reason. I don't see how any government could seek to legislate for when somebody might, or might not, be suicidal."
Ms Harney said she was not aware that any of the parties in the general election were making the question of legislation on abortion an issue in their manifestos.
The Minister said she believed it would be "impossible" to bring in legislation to take account of [the X-case] situation where a woman was suicidal.
"I have heard no lawyer, no political party that has told me and nobody has every told me how they could [formulate] legislation for those circumstances.
"I think it would be impossible, quite honestly. I think...this debate is dominated by extremes on both sides. We are quite a bit away from having legislation in this area in Ireland - that's my honest view. I don't know of anyone that's committing themselves to doing it."
Ms Harney said there were restrictions on what could be done because of the Constitution.
"And when we sought to change the Constitution and put in place a [reasonable] approach, it was defeated. It was a very heated debate. When that was defeated, I remember saying at the time that we are a decade away from revisiting this matter again.
"I believe that to be the case...I believe it will be quite some time before any government will revisit that issue again."
In the short term, the Minister said, the Department of Health is preparing legislation with regard to IVF treatment and that, in itself, would be a major and "sensitive" piece of legislation.