Sunday, May 06, 2007

HSE Will Back Miss D's Bid 'If District Court Gives Approval'

Irish Independent Saturday May 5th Dearbhail McDonald and Ann O'Loughlin

A Teenager who wants to travel to England to abort her unborn baby because it will not survive may be allowed to travel if certain conditions are met, her carers said yesterday.

In the strongest signal yet that the D case could be resolved without a repeat of the public tumult that followed in the wake of the X case abortion saga, lawyers for the Health Services Executive agreed it would be in the best interests of the girl to travel to England if she received district court approval to do so.

Miss D, the 17 year old whose baby is suffering from the fatal brain condition anencephaly, was not present in court for day two of the High Court action as she is unwell. In her absence, the HSE said that it would be willing to make an application to the district court to allow Miss D to travel.

It said it would agree that travel for for the purpose of a termination would be in her best interests if a district court judge was satisfied the girl had considered her decision carefully, preferably after counselling.

It also wanted to ensure that Miss D's mother, known as Miss A, consented to her daughter travelling and that a district court judge was satisfied that the travel was lawful. The HSE insisted it did not 'cook up a strategy in some heartless manner' to say the girl, who is usbject of an interim care order, could not travel to England despite the horrific circumstances she found herself in.

Gerry Durcan, a senior counsel who is representing the HSE, said the HSE believed that in these circumstances, the law dictated that the girl could not travel unless she had the authority or consent of the district court. Mr Durcan said the HSE recognised the human tragedy behind the legal proceedings; and that HSE staff had acted in good faith and at all times had done their best.

He also warned that the HSE had a lot of children in its care who needed to travel for lots of reasons and the implications for of the case for the HSE were much wider than the single issue of the legal right to travel for the purpose of a termination. Mr Durcan said it would be a 'dangerous precedent' if every 16 year or 17 year old in care could exercise their right to travel in a manner that would take them outside of HSE care.

Judge Liam McKechnie has now heard opening submissions from two of five legal teams. Yesterday, he warned 'time is running against us' and he has convened a special sitting of the High Court this Bank Holiday Monday to allow the case to proceed

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