Do Something!,  History

From the Vaults: New York Times, Feb 27, 1992

I enclose an extract from an article that appeared in the New York Times on February 27, 1992. Some may recall the story as the case was reported around the world:

Irish Court Says Girl Can Leave to Obtain Abortion in Britain


The New York Times, February 27, 1992. P1.

DUBLIN, Feb. 26 — The Irish Supreme Court ruled today that it was legal for a 14-year-old pregnant girl who says she was raped to travel to Britain for an abortion.

Overturning a lower-court ruling that had provoked wide controversy, the five-member court, in a one-line decision, allowed the girl to travel. Abortion is not permitted in Ireland unless a mother’s life is at stake.

It was the ban on travel, imposed by the Irish Attorney General’s office, that touched off much of the controversy. The ban seemed to run afoul of stipulations by the European Community, of which Ireland is a member, allowing its citizens the right to travel freely within the community.

The girl, whose identity has not been disclosed, says she was made pregnant in December in a rape by the father of a friend. The girl’s family told the Irish police that it planned to obtain an abortion in London, where the procedure is legal. It asked the police if they wanted forensic evidence from the operation to use in their investigation of the case. No charges have been brought.

But the nation’s Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, a vigorous opponent of any sanctioning of abortion, intervened, telling the family that it would be breaking Irish law if the operation was performed. The girl and her parents, who had gone to London in the meantime, returned to Ireland, and an uproar broke out here and abroad about the law, and about the rights of the girl and of the fetus.

Today’s decision freed the girl to leave Ireland to have the abortion, but did not overturn the abortion law, which is supported by Article 8 of the Constitution. A number of questions on the issue remain unanswered, and after the court announces the basis of its decision, the Government may face a decision on whether to try to revise the Constitution.

The case became known as the “X case” as the name of the girl in question was not revealed. We are now 20 years on but legislation has still not been passed in Ireland allowing girls and women access to abortion where their life is in danger. A group called Action on X has formed and requests that a petition is signed encouraging the Irish government to legislate on the matter. Without wishing to embroil myself in the wider abortion debate, the limited aim of the petition, to allow abortion where a woman’s “life is in danger,” seems far less controversial and not unreasonable to me.

Hat Tip: Julie Burchill