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Irish Teenager Fights for the Right to Abort

An Irish teenager is challenging the powerful Catholic establishment and the country's strict abortion laws .

She has moved the High Court demanding that she be allowed to go to Britain to abort her fourth month old brain-damaged fetus.

She could be succeeding. For barely a day after the hearing began, the Health Service Executive (HSE), which had originally said she could not go out of the country for abortion, changed its mind.

It told the court that it would allow her to go to the UK after all, but only with the consent of her mother and a judge.

While the mother is with her, the judge part is slightly dicey. Still things have improved dramatically for her since Friday when she argued in the court that it would be inhumane to carry the deformed baby for nine months.

The 17-year-old who cannot be named, known only as Miss D, last week found out that the fetus she is carrying suffers from anencephaly, a severe deformity that means that a major part of the brain, scalp and skull is missing.

If the child is carried for the full term, it is only expected to live for a maximum of three days after birth.

Despite the gradual erosion of the Catholic Church's influence in Ireland, a ban on abortion is still written in to the constitution.

Abortions can only be performed if a mother's life is at risk, which includes the threat of suicide. The law does not permit abortion on grounds of fetal abnormality. Most women seeking an abortion get around the ban by going to England.

But Miss D has been in the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE) since March and it asked the police to prevent her from traveling.

Opening the case, Eoghan Fitzsimons, Miss D's counsel, said his client would be subjected to degrading treatment if she carried the baby for nine months.

Fitzsimons said she would suffer mental and physical trauma and gr eat discomfort.

Even though she is in care, the girl's mother, known as Miss A, has come out in support of her daughter's wish, as has her boyfriend, who launched the legal appeal on her behalf since Miss D is still a minor.

The court heard that most women who discover their baby has anencephaly decide to abort the fetus, even in late stages of pregnancy.

Miss D believed that she should have the right to choose abortion.

During a psychiatric assessment the girl told a doctor: "It's my body and I should be allowed to do with it what I want."

The psychiatrist's report noted that Miss D felt guilty as she had not taken folic acid in the run-up to her pregnancy or in its early stages.

Around 7,000 Irish women travel to Britain each year for an abortion. The case continues.


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