Irish Teen Asks Court to Allow Trip to England for Abortion

Ireland's second-highest court was scheduled Thursday to hear a major abortion-rights case — over whether a 17-year-old girl in state care has the right to travel to England for an abortion.

Abortion is illegal in this predominantly Catholic country, but an estimated 7,000 women each year evade the ban by traveling to England, where the practice was legalized in 1967.

The girl, who has been identified in court only as "Miss D," is asking High Court Justice Liam McKechnie to order her legal guardians, the government's Health Services Executive, to permit her to travel to England for an abortion.

The girl's lawyer, constitutional expert Gerard Hogan of Trinity College Dublin, says she decided to abort the 4-month-old fetus after it was diagnosed last month with a deadly abnormality that means it will be born without part of its brain and skull — and will live a maximum of three days.

McKechnie said he would try to hear both sides' arguments Thursday and issue a verdict by next week, particularly given the possibility that his ruling could be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Until 1992, Ireland made it illegal for its residents to receive information about English abortion services or to travel there for abortions, although such acts were rarely investigated or prosecuted.