A clinically dead pregnant woman in Ireland was taken off life support last month after a Dublin court ruled that the fetus would not survive long enough to be born.
Ireland’s ban on abortion makes it the country with the strictest abortion laws in all of Europe. This most recent case brought the law into question for many Irish people and reproductive rights advocates worldwide.
The court’s decision to take the pregnant woman off life support was in line with her family’s wishes. The court, which normally does not operate around Christmas, convened to hear the woman’s family plea to have her taken off life support. The woman was declared clinically dead on December 3 after experiencing a severe head injury during a fall.
The decision comes as a surprise to some, as Irish law experts said they believed the court would rule to keep the woman on life support as long as the fetus was alive inside her.
Seven doctors presented testimony to say the fetus “has nothing but distress and death in prospect.” The doctors explained that the fetus would have a high chance of experiencing infections, fungal growths, and other complications due to the state of the woman’s body.
But this ruling does not necessarily set up a new path for similar cases in the future; judges say future cases involving clinically dead pregnant women might be dealt with differently if the fetus has a greater chance of being viable.
Ireland’s total ban on abortion was amended for the first time in 2013 after a woman named Savita Halappanavar died of blood poisoning after being denied an abortion during a miscarriage. Ireland’s abortion law now states that a woman can receive an abortion if the pregnancy is putting her life in danger.
However, the current ban on abortion still leads judges to hold the right of the fetus “over the feelings of grief and respect for a mother who is no longer living.”
Media Resources: CBS News 12/26/2014, 11/14/2012; Feminist Newswire 12/19/2014, 5/2/2013, 11/14/2012