Ireland has hit the worlds headlines again, and it’s sadly for all the wrong reasons. The death of a young woman, Savita Halappanavar, who moved to Ireland from India with her husband and became pregnant.
Savita and her husband, an engineer at Boston Scientific, moved to the city of Galway, where she worked as a dentist. At 17 weeks pregnant, she went to the hospital in Galway in severe pain. The medical staff there discovered she was miscarrying.
Her husband, had described how she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated, given that she was in immense pain and was miscarrying. He said the request was refused by medical staff who said they could not do anything because there was still a foetal heartbeat. He said they were told that this was the law and that Ireland “is a Catholic country”.
She was denied an abortion, which had it been carried out would have saved her life.
She died of sepsis, in agony.
What kind of Dark Ages mentality is this? That a woman, who’s life is at risk, ends up dying in hospital from something which was completely preventable, but because religious doctrine dictates what laws we have on our statute books. This is something I would have expected back in the era of the medieval church, an era that had no problems with sacrificing the life of a woman, if it meant that canon law and order prevailed. But this is the 21st century, where all men AND women are created equal and have the same rights.
We, as a nation, have had to endure for the past 20 years the stigma of being one of only TWO countries in the EU where abortion is illegal. The other being Poland. Both countries are deemed the last great bastions of Catholic doctrine whereby the sanctity of an unborn foetus has the same rights as that of a living person.
Yet when Savita, who is not a Catholic, went into hospital, she had already begun to miscarry. What the hospital seems to have done, is to make a decision to put a woman’s life in danger, so as to protect the rights of a foetus that never even had a chance of surviving.
There can be no justification for such a decision. It was ruled by the Supreme Court during the infamous “X Case” that whilst abortion in Ireland was illegal, there was one clear exception, that of when a woman’s life is endangered by the continuation of her pregnancy, be it medically or psychologically.
As Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a renowned Ob/Gyn, wrote –
There is no medically acceptable scenario at 17 weeks where a woman is miscarrying AND is denied a termination, there can only be three plausible explanations for Ms. Hapappanavar’s “medical care” :
1) Irish law does indeed treat pregnant women as second class citizens and denies them appropriate medical care. The medical team was following the law to avoid criminal prosecution.
2) Irish law does not deny women the care they need; however, a zealous individual doctor or hospital administrator interpreted Catholic doctrine in such a way that a pregnant woman’s medical care was somehow irrelevant and superceded by heart tones of a 17 weeks foetus that could never be viable.
3) Irish law allows abortions for women when medically necessary, but the doctors involved were negligent in that they could not diagnose infection when it was so obviously present, did not know the treatment, or were not competent enough to carry out the treatment.
The Irish government, in recent months, has also faced the wrath of the European Court of Human Rights, who told the government to get its house in order and make clear any ambiguities regarding the interpretation of the law, i.e. when it was, and was not, legal to carry out an abortion here in Ireland.
There are two elephants in the room of course. The first being the huge numbers of women who have travelled across the Irish Sea every year to have an abortion carried out in England. The second being the supposed right of ANY government preventing a citizen to decide something for themselves that impacts their own body, their life, or even death, simply because it does not fit in with your own personal or religious ideologies.
Let’s begin with the first elephant, the numbers.
It is estimated that on average, between 4,000 – 6,000 Irish women head across to England each year to seek out an abortion. In fact, if you look at the statistics, you can see that we are 16 times higher than any other group.
And the demographics clearly show that those having to travel abroad are the same group of people who had no voice, because we were too young to vote, during the last referendum on legalising abortion in Ireland.
Statistics from the UK Department of Health website
So the shear volume of women, who took the enormously brave step of getting on that boat or plane to England, because they could not get an abortion here at home, have spoken with their feet. And yet the government continues to ignore the fact that these women have had to leave the country to get the medical treatment they so desire.
And what of a woman’s right to choose. It should not be anyone else’s decision to make. Not of the State, her family, or even that of her husband/partner. It is HER body, and it is her decision to make. HERS!
It’s the same dysfunctional nanny-state mentality that prevents a terminally ill patient from seeking out a humane and dignified way of dying in the event that they cannot live a fully functioning and valuable life. This is a decision that they alone should be able to make and choose the time when they want to make it. Not some jumped up little bureaucrat who is “only following the letter of the law”.
If the laws in this land are broken or do not serve their purpose, then the solution is very simple….CHANGE THEM! These are not written in stone, and preventing the people of this land from having THEIR say and failing to set-out a referendum on the topic is a crime in and of itself. It is oppression on a national scale.
How many more women like Savita will die needlessly? One is already one too many.
The message below sent to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, could not have put it more succinctly.