Alleged forced abortion case adjourned while pregnant woman gets legal advice
Partner claims woman’s family forcing her to travel for procedure
The man taking the legal action claims he has no desire to restrain his girlfriend from travelling if that is her freely held wish, but he believes she is being forced by her family to undergo the procedure. Photograph: Alan Betson
A man who alleges his pregnant girlfriend is being forced to have an abortion against her will has brought High Court proceedings to restrain her from travelling to the UK for the procedure until it is established that she is freely choosing to do so.
The man wants a psychiatrist to determine whether the woman is exercising a free choice, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was told yesterday.
The court action was initiated after the man discovered arrangements were made for his girlfriend to have an abortion in the UK. He claims he has no desire to restrain her from travelling if that is her freely held wish, but he believes she is being forced by her family to undergo the procedure.
Yesterday morning his lawyers asked Ms Justice Laffoy for several injunctions preventing the woman, who is 20 weeks’ pregnant, undergoing an abortion or from leaving the jurisdiction until it can be ascertained she is acting of her own free will.
The couple, who cannot be identified by order of the court, are both foreign nationals aged in their 20s who live in Ireland. The woman attended court yesterday afternoon, but was not legally represented.
The case has been adjourned to tomorrow to allow the woman obtain legal advice and respond to claims she is being forced into an abortion against her will.
Earlier yesterday, Séamus Ó Tuathail, for the man, said his client had discovered in an email that his girlfriend was due to undergo a procedure at a London clinic today.
Ms Justice Laffoy granted the man permission to serve short notice of proceedings on his girlfriend aimed at preventing her leaving the jurisdiction and undergoing an abortion until it can be determined if she is acting of her own free will. The judge returned the matter to 2pm when it was adjourned until tomorrow to allow her get legal advice. The judge has also directed the Attorney General be made a notice party to the case.
In his action, the man is also seeking orders restraining the woman’s parents taking her out of the jurisdiction until it can be ascertained she is acting of her own free will.
The man, in seeking to vindicate the rights of his unborn child, also wants the court to order an urgent investigation by a psychiatrist to ascertain if she is being taken to the UK against her will before she is permitted leave the country.
Mr Ó Tuathail said the man wanted the woman seen by a psychiatrist as soon as possible. The judge said she was not prepared to make such a direction until the woman had had an opportunity to obtain legal advice.
Eileen Barrington SC, for the Attorney General, said that given the nature of the proceedings, the Attorney General considered she did not have a role to play. The man was not seeking to stop his girlfriend travelling to the UK for an abortion but rather asking it to decide if she was being made to take steps against her will.
The judge thanked counsel for attending court and said that while she accepted the submissions, she asked that the Attorney General continue to observe the proceedings.
Earlier, the court was told the couple had known each other for a year but the woman’s family had not accepted their relationship. The man says his girlfriend’s family are deeply unhappy with the fact she is in a relationship with someone of non-European origin.
In an affidavit to the court, he said the woman “is happy to be pregnant” and had “never expressed any desire to have an abortion”. Her family are of the view she will be “ruined” if she has a child with “a non-white man”, he said.
Her true intentions were evident from factors including she registered with a maternity hospital, was looking forward to having a cat scan and had bought baby clothes, he said.
He said he and the woman had moved in together but she was forced by her family in recent days to leave the house they shared. A member of her family had threatened to kill him if he attempted to come near his girlfriend, he alleged.