They said they could not do an abortion. I said, ‘You can leave me now to die. I don’t want to live in this world anymore’

The woman refused an abortion says she was raped but did not know she was pregnant until she arrived in Ireland

Kitty Holland interviewed a young woman who was refused an abortion and later had her pregnancy delivered by Caesarean section under the terms of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. She discusses the implications and the questions it raises.


The young woman who says she was raped, refused an abortion and later had her pregnancy delivered by Caesarean section says she was initially told she could have an abortion at 24 weeks but that this subsequently changed.

In an interview with The Irish Times, she said she felt she had “no choice”.

“Yes, I would have preferred an abortion,” she said. “I was told the only way to end the pregnancy at this point would be a Caesarean . . . They said wherever you go in the world, the United States, anywhere, at this point it has to be a Caesarean.”

The softly spoken young woman, a migrant who looks about four years younger than her age, said she had spent three weeks in hospital and it “was all suffering”.

She spent two weeks in hospital being assessed by “many” psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and obstetricians before the Caesarean section was performed on her this month. She was discharged a week later.

She tells how she arrived in the State this year and it was at a medical assessment that she found out she was pregnant.

“I told them this was very difficult to bear . . . I felt it would be a reminder of what happened in my country.

“I was raped in my country. I did not know I was pregnant until I came here.”

Sitting in a coffee shop, the thin, fragile woman says the nurse who carried out the initial pregnancy test said she could go to another clinic where a second test would be done.

She says she was referred to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), where her pregnancy was confirmed.

“It was very difficult for me. I cried. I said I am not capable of going through with this. I said I could die because of this... They said to me abortion was not legal here, but people like me are sent to England for abortions . . . I asked to go and they said they would have to arrange the documents and that could take six weeks.”

She says she was sent to a hospital for a scan to determine the gestation of the pregnancy.

“They said it is okay because I was eight weeks and four days. After that day I hoped they were going to help me. I was shown documents that were filled in, and I understood that the process was under way.”

Over the following weeks, she says, she had a number of meetings at the IFPA and though the process seemed to be in train she was told some weeks later that the estimated cost of travelling to England, having the abortion and possible overnight accommodation could be over €1,500. An individual in the IFPA, she says, told her the State would not fund the costs.

“In my culture it is a great shame to be pregnant if not married . . . I didn’t even know what [the medic] was saying to me.

“I said to her, ‘I could die because of this pregnancy. I am prepared to kill myself’.”

At this stage she was 16 weeks’ pregnant.

“I said we’re getting too far, and she said, no, in England they carry out abortions up to 28 weeks . . . She said ‘that is not the problem. The problem is the money’. This was the final thing for me. I cried.”

She says that by then she had decided to kill herself.

That night she returned to the place where she lived and attempted to take her own life but was interrupted.

She moved shortly thereafter as she hoped she might get more help elsewhere. She also made contact with a family friend here who said he would help her. He advised her to go to a GP and tell them she was suicidal because of the pregnancy.

This she did. The GP referred her to a hospital, where she saw a psychiatrist.

“She had read the report and she said to me, ‘No, you are already too far pregnant’. I cried. She asked me lots of questions and I answered them, telling her everything I felt. Around 11pm I saw another psychiatrist. I told her the same thing. I spent the night there.

“The next day, around 10am, I was taken in a taxi to another hospital . . . When we got there I thought they were going to help me. They brought me to a room where they did a scan and the pregnancy was 24 weeks and one day . . .They said they could not do an abortion. I said, ‘You can leave me now to die. I don’t want to live in this world anymore’.”

She says from this point a nurse was constantly at her bedside and she was always accompanied to the bathroom.

“They knew I was going to do myself ill. From Friday I did not eat. I did not drink. For four days I didn’t drink, I didn’t eat . . . I thought that way I could die...On Monday night two doctors came, a psychiatrist and a gynaecologist, and said, ‘We are going to carry out the abortion next Monday but you have to be strong. You have to eat. You have to drink.’ I started to eat and I drank.”

She says she was told a few days later that the plan had changed.

“They said the pregnancy was too far. It was going to have to be a Caesarean section . . . They said wherever you go in the world, the United States, anywhere, at this point it has to be a Caesarean.

“I didn’t know if I could continue to suffer.”

She says that a number of days later, two medics told her the authorities had been made aware of her situation and she would need a solicitor. “That really shocked me.”

A solicitor was appointed by the HSE.

“That day I didn’t speak to anyone. I didn’t want to see people. I just listened to what they said without looking at them.

“The solicitor said he was familiar with my case but it would be better to explain it myself. . . I didn’t eat again those days . . . On Monday evening a psychiatrist came again and said if I eat and drink they will try to do the operation on Tuesday.I would have preferred an abortion.”

Was she told she had a choice between an abortion and a Caesarean?

“No. I was told the only route that remained was a Caesarean.”

She met the obstetrician she understood would perform the section on Tuesday, and this doctor told her about the operation.

“She said to me, there is a law. This law says abortion is prohibited but people like me can be helped. Abortion is allowed if the pregnant person wants to kill herself because of the pregnancy.

“She promised they would do it [the Caesarean] on Wednesday. She showed me a document with three signatures, two psychiatrists and one gynaecologist. She started talking about the negative effects [of a Caesarean section]. I didn’t listen. I didn’t have a choice. All the suffering I had gone through. Then on Wednesday at about 3pm they did it.

“When I woke up I felt sick. The following Wednesday I was let out.”

Asked about the baby, she becomes upset, saying she had not wanted a child from the rape to have come into the world.

“I didn’t want to even know that I had a child. Still, even today, I feel really bad.”

She has seen a psychiatrist twice since she left hospital, provided for her by the HSE.

Asked if she has any friend to talk to about her situation, the young woman says she has not.

“No, I didn’t want people to know . . . For me this was shameful. In our culture if a girl gives birth to a child before marriage everything is finished. No one can respect you. As well as that, for me, with the rape, it was difficult.”

Her stomach is still sore, and “the scar will never go away”, she say, adding “it will always be a reminder”.

“Sometimes, when I feel the pain . . . I feel I have been left by everybody . . . I just wanted justice to be done. For me this is injustice.”

*Niall Behan, chief executive of the IFPA, said immigrant women with crisis pregnancies were among the most vulnerable, particularly if their right to travel was restricted.

“We provide information and support to all women and support them in any way we possibly can with the choices they make.

“If they do choose to have an abortion and to travel we support them, but we cannot help financially. There are huge obstacles for this cohort of terms of gathering the necessary visa documentation and the money.

“Many are effectively trapped in Ireland and cannot travel,” said Mr Behan.

A spokeswoman for the HSE, asked about the allegation that she was not offered a right to appeal the decision to carry out a Caesarean section, said the woman’s request for a termination on the basis of suicidality was acceded to.

“It is important to note that a pregnancy can be terminated by way of delivery through Caesarean section, as it was in this instance.”

As they were acceding to her request for a termination of the pregnancy on those grounds, there is no requirement for a review pursuant to section 10.