C Case

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C Case
Court High Court (Ireland)
Full case name A. and B., Plaintiffs, v. Eastern Health Board, District Judge Mary Fahy and C., Defendants
Decided 28 November 1997 (1997-11-28)
Citation(s) [1997] IEHC 176; [1998] 1 IR 464; [1998] 1 ILRM 460
Court membership
Judge sitting Geoghegan J
Keywords
  • Abortion
  • Right to travel
  • Right to life
  • Constitution of Ireland

A. and B. v EHB and C. [1997] IEHC 176, commonly known as the C Case, was a case on whether a thirteen-year-old girl (known as C) who had become pregnant as a result of rape and was suicidal could be permitted to travel to obtain an abortion. She was in the care of the Eastern Health Board (EHB), an organ of the Irish state, and the abortion was resisted by her parents, the plaintiffs in the case. abortion law in Ireland at the time of the case made abortion inaccessible within Ireland; however, in the X Case (1992), the Supreme Court had ruled that abortion was permissible under the Constitution where there was a threat to a woman's life, including a risk of suicide.

Facts[edit]

Ms C was brutally raped by an adult male (Simon McGinley) on 27 August 1997, and became pregnant as a result. She is a member of the travelling community and one of a family of twelve. The alleged rapist is also of the travelling community and a long-standing friend of the family. The evidence before the District Court indicated that she lived in particularly squalid conditions which were quite unlike the conditions in which most travelling people lived. The Court believed that the girl was very severely traumatised by the rape. The girl was currently in the care of the Irish state. She became suicidal and the EHB made a court application to bring her to the UK for an abortion.[1]

She had an abortion in the UK in December 1997, accompanied by two Gardai and her EHB guardian.[2]

The parents were opposed to the abortion, and communicated regularly with Youth Defence.[2]

The rapist, Simon McGinley, was jailed for 12 years.[3]

Law[edit]

Abortion is illegal in Ireland. At the time of the case, it was prohibited under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution of Ireland protects the right to life of the unborn. The substantive clause was added by the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland in 1983. A further clause was added by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1992 in response to the X Case, protecting the freedom to travel to another state to obtain an abortion.

Court case[edit]

On 21 November 1997, the District Court made an order that C could leave the country.[1] The parents challenged this order in the High Court, but the court upheld the original order, allowing the EHB to bring her to the UK for an abortion.[1][4] The court relied on the judgment in the X Case and the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland.

Reaction[edit]

The then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Desmond Connell, strongly criticised the ruling;[5][6][7] however, he declined to fund a Supreme Court challenge.[8]

I have many concerns about the decision. .. I have deep reservations about the re-affirmation by the courts of the notion that there are circumstances where abortion is medically justifiable. The testimony in the X case, relating to suicidal tendencies, was already controversial

— Desmond Connell, "Archbishop's deep sadness at 'amazing' court decision". Irish Independent. 29 November 1997. p. 13. 

Archbishop Connell claimed that abortion caused mental health problems:

at a psychiatric level, abortion would appear to cause more problems than it solves, even were we to judge the issue on its medical implications alone. One this last point, it is clear from the significant risk of psychological problems following abortion, particularly among those who have abortions in their teens or who are ambivalent and/or unsupported, that this unhappy child would be better served if she received the highest degree of medical and psychological support along with the continuation of her pregnancy

— Desmond Connell, "Archbishop's deep sadness at 'amazing' court decision". Irish Independent. 29 November 1997. p. 13. 

Youth Defence picketed the home of EHB Chair Róisín Shortall because she didn't stop the case.[9]

The Pro Life Campaign criticised the EHB, and called for a full inquiry.[10]

Legacy[edit]

The woman at the centre of the case has occasionally spoken about her experiences, but not revealed her identity. She found the abortion traumatic, and didn't understand what was going on at the time. She didn't know that she would be getting an abortion, and thought that the hospital were going to deliver her baby.[11][12][13]

It has been living with me, still to this day it’s living with me. There is still stuff to this day with nightmares, I can’t sleep and I’m on medication. I’m still living in fear, fear all the time. No one understands how you feel, how a rape victim feels after being raped. It never goes away no matter how people say it does. It lives with you constantly. Fears and everything that goes with, the nightmares, the whole lot

— C

In 2009, the rapist was sentenced to 21 years for another rape, this time of an 86-year-old woman in 2008.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "A. and B. v. Eastern Health Board [1997] IEHC 176; [1998] 1 IR 464; [1998] 1 ILRM 460 (28 November, 1997)". 
  2. ^ a b Newman, Christine (4 December 1997). "13-year-old rape victim had abortion in England yesterday". The Irish Times. p. 4. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  3. ^ Mac Ruairi, Tomas (18 December 1998). "Judge jails C case rapist for `dreadful evil act'". Irish Independent. p. 7. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "After the C Case". The Irish Times. 29 November 1997. p. 17. 
  5. ^ "Connell criticises court's decision". The Irish Times. 29 November 1997. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  6. ^ Connell, Desmond (29 November 1997). "Archbishop's deep sadness at 'amazing' court decision". Irish Independent. p. 13. 
  7. ^ O'Regan, Eilish; Maddock, John; Glennon, Chris (29 November 1997). "Church alarm at girl's abortion freedom". Irish Independent. p. 1. 
  8. ^ McKenna, Gene; O'Toole, Bernie (1 December 1997). "Archbishop rejects plea to fund abortion challenge". Irish Independent. p. 1. 
  9. ^ Coulter, Carol (5 December 1997). "Youth Defence plans more protests". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  10. ^ Kennedy, Geraldine (18 December 1997). "Pro-Life Campaign wants inquiry on health board's handling of C case". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  11. ^ O'Doherty, Gemma (5 May 2013). "C-Case mum: I grieve for my lost baby every day". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  12. ^ "C-CASE GIRL SPEAKS OUT". Life Institute. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  13. ^ "'Still to this day it's living with me . . . I'm still living in fear, fear all the time'". The Irish Times. 18 July 2009. p. 9. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Holland, Kitty (18 July 2009). "21-year sentence 'was a bit of relief". The Irish Times. p. 9. Retrieved 19 August 2009.