The Gardaí and the Child and Family agency Tusla, are currently investigating the case of a 12 year old girl, who reportedly travelled to the UK to receive an abortion. It is believed she was provided aid by the Abortion Support Network (ASN), with authorities notified by the clinic in question after questions about the age of the girl were raised on her arrival. First reported by the Sunday Times, ASN founder Mara Clarke stated that 52 girls under 16 used its service last year, and that at least two thirds of them were from the Republic of Ireland. As stated by the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland the termination of pregnancies is not legal within the country.
DNA testing is currently underway to rule out the possibility of an adult being involved with the pregnancy, and to confirm the identity of the father, which is at this time believed to be a 15-year old boy. With the age of consent being 17, and the age of criminal responsibility being 10 (in cases of rape), the boy, if found guilty, may face up to life in prison. Colm Keena of the Irish Times reports that “A defence of being ‘reasonably mistaken’ in believing the person was 15 years old would, if successful, reduce the sentence upon conviction to one of up to seven years. Consent is not a defence.” The Garda Press Office and Tusla, who are now handling the case, have made no comment as to the investigation of the individual.
Sinéad Redmond of the Pro-Choice advocacy group Parents for Choice has said that it was “deeply saddening that such a vulnerable person could not get the care she deserved at home, and that a young person’s private crisis is front page news,” although she stated she was not aware of the details of the case. Lisa Keogh Finnegan, of the same group, spoke to the Irish Independent, saying “A few of our membership have daughters of her age. We need to look after the children we have – she is only 12… You can’t ask a 12 year old to carry a pregnancy.”
Members of Pro-Life groups have also spoken out over the issue. Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life campaign stated that, “There isn’t any reason to believe that an abortion, a traumatic experience, would help her.” Sherlock also added that campaigners for the Pro-Choice side “have shamelessly exploited cases like this for one reason only – to make abortion widely available.”
The Bill for the repeal referendum was confirmed to be finished by Minister for Health Simon Harris on Twitter, where he wrote “36th Constitutional Amendment Bill to hold referendum to #repealthe8th has passed all stages in Dáil Éireann. Now moves on to Seanad Éireann.”
The referendum has now been confirmed to take place May 25th.