Thursday, May 10, 2007

Role of HSE Seriously Undermined By Ruling

Derbhail McDonald The Irish Independent Thursday May 10th 2007.

MISS D, the 17-year old girl who last night was booking a flight to travel to an English abortion clinic, had several choices available to her when she discovered her baby was doomed to die.
She could have carried it to full term.

But she couldn't live with the trauma of giving birth to "a baby with no head" and no prospect of survival.

She could have lied and told the HSE (her temporary carers) that she was suicidal and win an X case exemption.

But she wasn't prepared to commit perjury by waving a false suicide shroud.
She could have stayed mute, and made arrangements to secretly travel to England without telling the HSE she was pregnant and about to abort her much wanted, but non-viable son or daughter.

But she chose to speak out and have her trauma - personal and legal - read into the public record for all to see and hear.

Miss D chose courage instead of cowardice; truth instead of deceit and faced up to her abortion demons instead of hoping they would go away.

And that is why every political party in Ireland should today hang their heads in shame.
Since the D story broke two weeks ago, politicians of all shades have been disgracefully mute.
Cowering behind the actions and words of an unelected judge - asked, once again, to play God - our politicians buried their heads in the sand lest a "troubled teen" bring the curtains down on an already fraught election campaign.

Last night, Fianna Fail, who promised they would legislate in the wake of the X ruling, said that it did not comment on individual cases and was opposed to legislation calling for abortion.

That means they won't introduce (as promised) laws to regularise abortions that are legal in Ireland. And they won't consider making abortion available in Ireland where the foetus will not survive outside the womb.

But they'll happily pay for women carrying babies with foetal abnormalities to catch a boat or plane to England. It's the Irish way.

Ironically, yesterday's ruling had little to do with political cowardice or abortion.
It is about troubled children in the care of the State who may now ignore court orders because they feel like it. And whilst it has solved one of the problems that Miss D faced by allowing her to travel, it has opened up a Pandora's Box for the Health Services Executive which has over 5,000 children in its care.

The High Court has ruled that there is no statutory or constitutional prohibition preventing Miss D for travelling to England for an abortion or any other reason.

Although most children are placed in care as the result of an interim court order, it now seems - as a result of yesterday's ruling - that they don't need to ask the HSE or a court if they can leave that care. Or the country.

So the HSE, which is legally and morally responsible for children in its care - children who, by definition, require special attention because the State has to step into the role of their parents - now finds that its role could be seriously undermined.

The ruling in the D case has opened up a new chapter in Ireland's childcare narrative.
Are the HSE powerless to stop (mostly older) teens in its care from acting as they wish, going where they want?

If the courts and the HSE have no control or knowledge of children's whereabouts, who is at fault when things go wrong?

Hard cases, the cliche runs, have the potential to make bad law.
And the resolution of one crisis can pave the way for another.

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