Thursday, November 02, 2006

The X Case: Abortion after rape

February 1992: A 14 year old girl was raped by a neighbour and fell pregnant. The girl told her mother she was suicidal and the family travelled to Britain for an abortion. However, before the procedure, the family asked gardaĆ­ if DNA from her foetus could be used as evidence in a court case against the neighbour.

The then Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, heard about the case and was granted a High Court injunction under the Constitution to prevent the procedure from going ahead.

However, the injunction was appealed in the Supreme Court, which overturned it by a majority of three to two. The court's opinion was that a woman had a right to an abortion if there was a real and substantial risk to her life. In any case, the girl miscarried soon after the judgement was made.

The case led to three proposed amendments to the Constitution, which were the subject of a national referendum in 1992. Two of the amendments-concerning the right to travel for an abortion and the right to information about the procedure-were passed, while the other-to ban abortions, even if the mother was suicidal-was defeated.

Following the X Case, politicians promised legislation to cover situations like the X Case. Nearly 15 years later, we are still waiting.

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