Baby delivered at 25 weeks gestation in Ireland to avoid death by abortion

Sean Murphy*

News reports indicate that an immigrant woman whom a friend says was raped in her country of origin discovered that she was pregnant after arriving in Ireland.  The friend says that she asked for an abortion when she was eight weeks pregnant, but it is not clear that she was then eligible for the procedure under the new Irish abortion law.  According to the reports, she again asked for an abortion in July, threatening suicide, and was found to be suicidal by a panel of two psychiatrists and an obstetrician.

The Irish Constitution and the Irish abortion law hold that the lives of both woman and child are of equal value, and both must be saved if practicable.  Since the pregnancy was so far advanced, it was decided that the baby should be delivered by Caesarean section, since that would provide the baby an opportunity to survive.  The woman initially refused and refused to take food or fluids.  After medical authorities obtained a court order to rehydrate her she consented to the Caesarean and the baby was delivered at about 25 weeks gestation.  The baby is now apparently in the custody of the state and being supported in a neonatal ward, while the mother is receiving psychiatric treatment.

The case has reignited the abortion controversy in Ireland.



One thought on “Baby delivered at 25 weeks gestation in Ireland to avoid death by abortion”

  1. The case illustrates how the exercise of conscientious judgement can become difficult in some situations. Women seeking abortion typically do not want to carry a child to term, and, in most cases, abortion causes the death of the foetus, so that being relieved of a pregnancy and causing the death of a foetus are normally synonymous: normally, but not necessarily, as this case demonstrates. Thus, assertions that the baby should have been aborted rather than delivered would seem to imply that a woman should not only have the right to be relieved of a pregnancy, but also the right to insist that her baby be killed during the process. Quite apart from the law, (a) physicians who are opposed to abortion in principle might, nonetheless, be willing to perform a Caesarean section in order to save the life of a baby that would otherwise be killed during an abortion; (b) physicians who have no objections to abortion might object to delivering a baby prematurely because of the potential health complications arising from prematurity; (c) other physicians might, for reasons of conscience, refuse to be involved with either abortion or premature delivery.

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