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“If Ireland Had Abortion Rights”

November 28, 2012

I had mentioned previously that our hearts grieved for Savita Halappanavar and her family.  While in the midst of a miscarriage, Savita requested and was denied an abortion at Galway University Hospital, in Ireland.  The reason was that the fetus, though dying, still had a heartbeat.  By the time doctors could no longer detect a heartbeat, Savita had blood poisoning.  She died because she had been denied the abortion.

As quoted in The Guardian, her husband said:

“Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion.  The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic Country.  Savita [an Indian Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’, but they said there was nothing they could do.” 

There is much to say about this case.  But I can’t help but feel that Savita herself expressed the problem in a nutshell: she was not a part of the culture (Irish) nor an adherent to the religion (Catholic) of the hospital’s administrators, doctors, and the government officials creating the system of laws and regulations that the hospital had to work in.

Since Savita was neither Irish nor Catholic, how was it fair or humane or right to allow her to die for the beliefs of those who are?

Of course not all Irish people or Catholic adherents believe that abortion is wrong. 

Latanya Mapp Frett, Vice President at Planned Parenthood Global (an arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America), explains in detail exactly why Americans should care about Savita.  You should read the whole thing, but here’s one piece:

Senseless decisions do not just happen in other countries. In Nebraska, doctors refused to allow Danielle Deaver to end her pregnancy after she learned her daughter would not survive, citing the state’s ban on abortion past 20 weeks gestation. Instead, Deaver was forced to deliver an infant who died moments after birth.

Evidence shows time and again that banning abortion does not make it go away — it merely leads to more unsafe abortions and more women dying. Some of the countries with the highest abortion rates worldwide have the most restrictive policies. On the other hand, countries with the lowest abortion rates tend to have more supportive abortion policies and strong policy support for contraception.

Policymakers truly interested in reducing abortion should support strong investment in contraception at home and abroad.


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