A young woman has been legally forced to give birth by caesarian section in Ireland after being denied an abortion in a case experts say exposes flaws in recent reform meant to allow limited terminations.
The woman, an immigrant who cannot be named for legal reasons, was refused an abortion even though at eight weeks she demanded a termination, claiming she was suicidal.
After she then threatened a hunger strike in protest at the decision, health authorities obtained a court order to deliver the baby prematurely, at about 25 weeks according to some reports, to ensure its safety. The infant has been placed in care.
The case is the first real test of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act passed last year, which allows for limited abortions in Irish hospitals.
The law provides for cases where the woman's life would be in danger if she goes full term, or in cases where she is suicidal in such instances as rape and incest.
Critics say that in this instance the law has proved of no practical value.
The case also highlighted medical guidelines given to Irish doctors, which pro-choice organisations said would seriously obstruct suicidal women seeking abortions. The guidelines mean women seeking an abortion could need approval from up to seven experts.
Pro-choice campaigners want to know if the woman concerned was offered the option of an abortion in Britain.
Mairead Enright, a lecturer on human-rights law at the University of Kent and a member of the Irish based Lawyers for Choice, said: "A woman might be able to obtain an abortion in the UK after 24 weeks, on limited grounds, including to save her life or to prevent grave permanent injury to her physical or mental health.
"In many cases, as we already know too well, the right to travel is meaningless to the wide variety of very vulnerable women unable to access it. However, it is likely that reports like this one, of this case, may discourage women from making applications under the act at all."
Enright said thousands of women in Ireland were at risk of being refused abortions in the republic's hospitals or the alternative of a termination in Britain.
She said: "It has been reported that this woman did not have a great command of English or was fully aware of her rights under Irish law."