Friday, May 04, 2007

Saving Face, Changing Heart

Oh, all right, Miss D can go and get her abortion if she wants it so badly.

After three days of hearings in Mr. Justice Liam McKechnie's court room, the Health Service Executive has had a slight change of heart. No wonder, now that they've been made to look like heartless bastards or brainless idiots, depending on your perspective. The ward of the state, referred to as Miss D, discovered that she was pregnant but the fetus she carries is anencephalic. Even if she were to carry to term, the malformed infant would survive no more than three days outside of the womb. Common medical practice is to perform an abortion, to safeguard the mother's health and fertility. Unless said woman is a ward of the Irish State, in which case a male case worker will ring up the Garda station and tell them not to issue her a passport under any circumstances, and don't let her go to England for that abortion.

But we only have the seventeen-year-old girl's best interests at heart, they said. When the judge asked them to elaborate, to explain how putting her through a horrendous ordeal was in her best interest, the folks of the HSE couldn't quite put together a cogent argument.

Very well, the HSE grumbled, we won't block her travel to England for an abortion. But, hold on just a minute, she'll have to jump through a few hoops so that the HSE can save face. First, Miss D will have to go the District Court and a judge will have to hear all this blather again, and then decide if Miss D has fully considered her decision. Can't be making these sorts of plans on the spur of the moment. Surely she might like to hold the deformed baby after undergoing labor, well aware that the child is going to suffer and die, and can the obstetrician please point out where the head would be on a normal baby. Oh yes, the decision must be completely, totally and fully considered.

Then Miss D's mother would have to promise to continue to support her daughter's wishes. That would be the alcoholic mother who lost custody of her daughter, it's her support that's needed. After that, the court will have to determine if Miss D's journey to England is lawful, as she is a ward of the State and all. And the court, being as well versed in medicine that it is, will decide if travelling to England for an abortion is appropriate.

After Miss D has some counseling under her belt, only then would HSE agree that she could get her abortion. She has all the time in the world to get all that done, as she is in her fourth month of pregnancy. Perhaps a judge could order the fetus to cease all further development until such time as the court deems it appropriate to continue gestation.

HSE isn't to blame in any of this, if one were to believe their excuses. Why, when Miss D said she wanted an abortion upon learning that her fetus was anencephalic, the HSE didn't have the luxury of time to consult with a battery of lawyers to find out what they should do. Miss D is to blame, in a way, for putting HSE in this awkward situation.

Could they have taken five minutes, do you think, to ring up an ob-gyne and put the question to a physician?

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