Pregnant girl sectioned after seeking an abortion.

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Young pregnant girl seeks abortion and is instead detained under Mental Health Act. Photo Source: The Irish Times. 

Caoimhe McGee, contributor.

A young pregnant girl seeking an abortion was sectioned in Dublin, according to a report on court proceedings.

The young girl and her mother, whose identities have been withheld, were led to believe she was being transferred to terminate her pregnancy, but she was instead admitted to a mental health unit upon arrival.

The girl had been seeking psychiatric help for suicidal thoughts and “had very strong views as to why she wanted a termination of her pregnancy”, according to a report from the Child Care Law Reporting Project, published on June 12th.

Although abortions are a criminal offence under the Irish constitution, it is possible in certain cases to get one if the mother’s life is in danger, under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. In this case however, though her treating psychiatrist believed the young girl to be suicidal as a result of her pregnancy, he claimed that an abortion “was not the solution”.

The girl was discharged several days later by order of a judge at a case hearing in late 2016, as a second psychiatrist said there was “no evidence of a psychological disorder”, so she could not be detained according to Ireland’s Mental Health Act.

The consulting psychiatrist claimed that the state of her mental health was difficult to determine on admission since she and her mother were under the impression she would be accessing an abortion, so she was agitated when she found out she had been transferred to Dublin to be admitted to a mental health unit.

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) have said they are “disgusted” and “deeply concerned” by the reports.

Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for the ARC, said “Looking at the report 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”.

She professed that the case showed Ireland “cannot continue to treat women, girls and pregnant people like this.”

Although the news of the case was condemned by various groups, the Pro-Life Campaign spokeswoman, Cora Sherlock, has said “it is grossly irresponsible for pro-choice campaigners to be using this case as another opportunity to attack the eighth amendment.”

“We need to stop pretending that abortion treats suicide ideation or any mental health condition.”

Veronica O’Keane, Associate Psychiatry Professor at Tallaght hospital, said confusion over abortion laws in Ireland is leading to difficult situations for patients.

“The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is a cumbersome legal tool that doesn’t translate very well into medical practice.”

A Solidarity TD, Ruth Coppinger, shares in the opinion that the laws surrounding abortion in Ireland are flawed, saying that this case has seriously highlighted that. “This situation is another human rights violation.”

It has since been confirmed by Ireland’s new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, that a referendum will be held on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution on abortion in 2018.

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