High Court grants 'Miss D' right to travel

Wed, May 9, 2007, 01:00

The High Court today granted a pregnant 17-year-old girl in care the right to travel to the UK for an abortion. The girl, known as Miss D, is almost 18 weeks pregnant with a baby with a major brain defect.

In a ruling issued this afternoon the court said that Miss D can travel outside of the country for an abortion.

Mr Justice Liam McKechnie ruled there is no statutory or constitutional impediment against allowing her to leave the country for an abortion.

The HSE had insisted she required a court order to do so but District Court Judge Flann Brennan refused its application last Saturday to make that order on grounds that this would be a failure to vindicate the constitutional right to life of the unborn.

Miss D wished to have her baby until she learned on April 23rd last that it has anencephaly, a condition where a major part of the brain is missing and where it has a prognosis of three days survival after birth.

In her proceedings, Miss D wanted the court to rule the HSE cannot restrain her from travelling. The HSE got leave from the High Court on Sunday to bring the second set of proceedings challenging the District Court's refusal to make an order that it is in the best interests of her welfare to allow her travel.

On Monday, Mr Justice McKechnie said he could not give an immediate decision, as requested by the HSE, on whether Miss D could travel or not as the case had implications but he would give his decision at 2pm today.

Gerard Durcan SC, for the HSE, said the constitutional provision protecting the right to life of the unborn had to be read together with the right to travel amendment to the Constitution approved by the people. The people had decided that, "whatever other way you vindicate the rights of the unborn, you do not do it by restricting the freedom to travel".

Lawyers for the State argued the case is not about the right to life of the unborn but about the right to travel. Children had constitutional rights from day one and "those rights are not delivered to them by courier on their 18th birthday", Donal O'Donnell SC said.

While agreeing there was no law under which Miss D could be restrained from travelling for an abortion, James Connolly SC, for the unborn, said no State agency should facilitate or fund such travel and the courts should not be "some form of licensing body for abortions".

Miss D's baby is a live foetus entitled to the constitutional protection for the unborn and the fact that it cannot survive after birth "is irrelevant", he said.

Today Justice McKechnie ruled the girl was now free to travel to the UK for the purpose of terminating her pregnancy.