Fake News: Media ignores happy ending for "suicidal girl denied abortion"

Media bias is the functional equivalent of fake news, and it is abundantly clear that it is alive and well in the Irish press. The undiluted presence of media bias is a serious problem in Ireland, so serious that it is a real threat to the functioning of Irish democracy.  

We recently got a very good example of media bias. In mid-June, the press was awash with the story of a suicidal girl who was sectioned after her psychiatrist ruled that abortion was ‘not the solution’ to her problems. The implication was that the girl was consigned to a psychiatric unit as the doctor objected to abortion, and was clearly being used by the media to argue for a change in the law and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. The 2013 Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act allows abortion whenever the woman is deemed to be suicidal or at risk of losing her life from physical illness. (Note that the measure was passed in spite of the overwhelming evidence from medical experts that abortion is NOT a treatment where a pregnant mother is in distress and contemplating suicide.)

The Abortion Rights Campaign were up in arms when the story broke. The group's spokeswoman Linda Kavanagh said: 'Looking at the report, it's hard not to think that the psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs.’ Kavanagh went on to claim that ‘we need some process which ensures medical professionals with such conscientious objections cannot block timely health care in critical cases’ and said the sectioning and denial of an abortion embodied ‘a grave breach of trust of a vulnerable young girl.’ Speaking about the case, Taoiseach and supporter of the Repeal the 8th campaign Leo Varadkar said, “I’ve heard those reports, they’re certainly worrying and very disturbing.”

What very few now know is that the girl, 16 years old and almost 25 weeks’ pregnant when she was referred to psychiatrists, had the baby and the baby is now living at home with her and her family. Back during the first week of July, more facts about the case emerged. The Irish Independent revealed that a panel of experts, convened under the 2013 abortion legislation, determined that the teenager should access an abortion due to the fact she was suicidal. It is important to point out here that psychiatrists working under the Mental Health Act disagreed unequivocally. However, the girl did give birth a mere three weeks later, and is living with at home with her baby surrounded by her family. At the time the abortion was permitted, she was almost 25 weeks’ pregnant, but because the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act has no time limit, it can only be assumed the girl made the choice to keep her baby. The Irish Independent in its coverage of the story also conveys that the mother went on to develop a close bond with the doctor who delivered her child.

The insidious push for abortion in cases of suicidality orchestrated so recently by the Irish Press is wholly dishonest and represents a true threat to public perceptions surrounding abortion. After all, all the studies carried out on this issue clearly show that pregnancy is in actuality correlated with a dramatic decreased rate of suicide compared to non-pregnant women.

Not only do we know that pregnancy weakens suicidal impulses, but there is also in existence strong evidence that abortion dramatically increases the risk of suicide. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota dating from 1986 found that a teenage girl is 10 times more likely to attempt suicide if she had an abortion in the last six months compared to a teenage girl who has not had an abortion. Actual data surrounding this specific issue is proof that abortion is far more likely to propel an unstable woman to suicide than is pregnancy and childbirth.

Media silence has followed this happy ending for mother and baby. Not a single news source seems to have reported it. David Quinn, writing an opinion piece for the Irish Independent, says "you would imagine the rest of the media would pick up on it, especially given the huge interest they had in the story when the first details emerged. But no. They ignored it." He goes on to question whether it was because of the positive, pro-life outcome of the story, “Was it ideologically inconvenient?" he asks. No doubting that it was.

The media chose not to report on the happy ending to the same story they so fervently followed at its turbulent beginning because it exemplifies how well our laws protecting both mother and baby work. As Quinn explains, "it is a pro-life story in the best sense of that term. The mother's life mattered, and the baby's life mattered as well. Doctors saved both and looked after both."

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