Photo of abortion rights activists protesting in memory of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist who died of blood poisoning after being denied an abortion in a Dublin hospital in 2012 via AP

Last year, a pregnant Irish teenager and her mother traveled to Dublin, under the impression that the girl would receive an abortion. Instead of getting the procedure, the teenager was held in a mental health facility “for days.”

CNN reports that the incident occurred in late 2016 and was first reported by the Child Care Law Reporting Project, an organization that looks at child care proceedings in Irish courts. The teen in question, whose name has not been released, was first evaluated by a psychiatrist who determined that she was suicidal and depressed. That psychiatrist then sent the teen and her mother to Dublin, where she was placed in a psychiatric clinic after doctors invoked the Mental Health Act, which allows health care professionals to place their patients in mental health facilities without their permission.


Ireland’s abortion laws are extremely restrictive; according to the Irish Family Planning Association’s website, abortions are illegal unless the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. The eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution makes it so that the mother’s right to life is the same of a fetus— a woman can only consider abortion when her life is in “immediate danger,” but not in instances of “rape, incest or ill health of the mother.” Technically, under Ireland’s 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, the teen in question could’ve been eligible for an abortion, CNN points out, as the psychiatrist that sent her to Dublin under false pretenses determined that she was suicidal —a clear enough indication that her life was ostensibly in danger.

In a statement Abortion Rights Campaign spokeswoman Linda Kavanagh crystalized precisely why this incident was so horrifying:

“It’s hard not to think that the psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs.

It is clear we need some process which ensures medical professionals with such conscientious objections cannot block timely health care in critical cases.”


While the teen was in the psychiatric facility, she was assessed by another psychiatrist who determined that while she “presented as being depressed,” there was no legitimate reason for her to be held under the Mental Health Act. The girl was released after a court determined that she “no longer had a mental health disorder.”

Managing Editor, Jezebel

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