Kyne: Archaic Irish abortion laws endanger women’s welfare

The abortion debate in Ireland has resurfaced, as vigils and marches are held for Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died after being refused an abortion. Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant and had been in the middle of a miscarriage when she was denied treatment.

Irish citizens are calling for her case to be re-examined and for those that played a part in her death to be reprimanded. Savita Halappanavar’s death was senseless and could have been prevented. This tragedy not only shows the need for Irish law reform, but also highlights the twisted hierarchy that has developed within the pro-abortion rights movement.

Halappanavar was at University Hospital Galway, which is not a Catholic hospital. Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, stated that during the miscarriage Savita accepted that she was going to lose the baby, and asked for doctors to end the pregnancy. Consultants told the couple that, “As long as there is a fetal heartbeat, we can’t do anything.”

Despite Halappanavar’s poor condition the doctors did not touch the fetus until it died naturally. At this point it was too late for Halappanavar, who was soon sedated in intensive care with blood poisoning, and died a few days later. The hospital has released statements claiming that an abortion would not have saved her, but many believe that the hospital is simply covering its tracks.

Praveen stated that the consultants told the couple, after refusing to abort the fetus, that, “It was the law, that this is a Catholic country.” This assertion is not completely true. In 1992 Ireland’s Supreme Court amended the previous ban on abortions to allow for a procedure when the woman’s life is at risk. This amendment was never clarified, and the exact conditions that must be met for a woman to legally obtain an abortion are still unclear.

Further changes must be made. While Ireland is a predominantly Catholic country, a proper separation of church and state must be put in place. If the government is unwilling to push for complete acceptance, they must broaden, or at least clearly specify, the circumstances under which abortion is allowed. If the specifics are not written out clearly, cases such as Halappanavar’s will continue unabated. Religious beliefs should not be used as a way to strip a dying woman of her rights.

In 2008, the Halappanavar family moved to Ireland, a country that, according to the World Health Organization, has an unusually low maternal death rate: three in 100,000, compared to 14 out of 100,000 in North America. The abortion law is incredibly archaic especially when paralleled with this high standard of health.

For those who preach anti-abortion: What about the life of the mother? In this dreadful occurrence, neither mother nor fetus was saved. Where exactly is the mother’s life placed on the hierarchy? It seems to be outweighed by the fetus. This was a woman trying to become a mother who was not only denied that chance, due to uncontrollable circumstances, but was also denied the right to proper treatment.

This couple wanted a baby and was ready for one. This image stands as a stark contrast to the stereotype of the young women, ignorant and wild, using abortions as birth control. Such notions are not only medieval – they are clearly dangerous. Women are capable of deciding what to do with their bodies, and the rulings of religion and of men can no longer be held above the rights of women.