The High Court is to hear a challenge by a 17-year-old girl against a Health Service Executive decision to stop her leaving the State for an abortion.

The 17-year-old, who has been told that her child cannot survive outside the womb, has been in the care of the HSE since February.

'Miss D' is four months pregnant and wants to travel to the UK for a termination.

The decision was made when the teenager discovered the baby she is carrying is suffering from anencephaly, a condition which is causing its brain not to develop properly.

She has been told that the child will only live a very short time, if at all, after it is born.

The HSE is refusing to allow her to leave the country.

Miss D is challenging the court order placing her in care, in so far as it restricts her leaving the State.

She is also asking the High Court to overrule the HSE's decision to ask gardaí to stop her.

And she is challenging the HSE's decision to refuse to let her travel to terminate the pregnancy unless there was a risk she would commit suicide.

Supported by her family

Today the High Court heard that Miss D is in care following an incident where her mother punched her in the stomach.

Her mother is an alcoholic, although she is off drink and sober at the moment.  

In documents given to the court, Miss D said she was extremely distressed by the news she received last week that her baby would not survive.

The girl said she decided to have an abortion because of the physical and mental trauma the pregnancy would cause.   

She said she was supported by her mother and her boyfriend's mother and both families would come up with funds to help her secure the termination.

She said it had been made abundantly clear to her that unless she was considered a suicide risk she would not be given permission by the HSE to travel for the abortion.

Miss D said she was not suicidal.

She said she believed she would be arrested if tried to leave the state. 

The teenager added it seemed inhumane to expect her to carry a baby to term in circumstances where it had been condemned to death once born.

She said the life of the baby was not in question.  

The diagnosis of anencephaly and the life expectancy of the baby is not disputed by the HSE.

She said she was shocked by the extent to which the HSE had chosen to ignore her wishes, and to treat her as if she had no right to personal autonomy.

Miss D said the situation was wholly unacceptable and she could not believe that she was prevented from exercising rights that any other 17-year-old in the State would have to travel for a termination simply because she was in the care of the HSE.

A full hearing of the case will take place on Thursday.

Right to travel 'absolute'

Meanwhile the CEO of the children's charity, Barnardos has spoken about the controversial case.

Speaking in Clonmel, Fergus Finlay said a referendum was passed in 1992, which gives every citizen in Ireland an automatic and unqualified right to travel to another jurisdiction for procedures that are legal abroad. 

He thinks that right is absolute.

Mr Finlay described it as a terribly tragic case, a terrible tragedy for the young woman.