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Thursday 15 November 2012

"Just F***ing Legislate Already"

Up until now I've managed to keep this blog a happy little place for light and frivolous things and have avoided writing posts on more serious matters- not intentionally, I just feel quite strongly about certain issues and am not sure this is the appropriate place to voice those opinions, because if I started, I'd probably never stop! Having said that, I found myself wide awake in horror, reading articles and tweets until around 2am last night about Savita Halappanavar's untimely death in University Hospital Galway last month and now I feel so angry that I have to write something. When I say I feel angry, really it's more of a potent mixture of anger and sadness. For anyone unaware of what happened, a 31 year old woman went into hospital at 17 weeks pregnant, complaining of pains. She was sadly found to be miscarrying her first baby. This process lasted for three days- three prolonged days where Savita continued to suffer through this awful experience and pain even though both her and her husband repeatedly asked for a termination- these requests were denied because a foetal heartbeat was still present.
In Ireland, although a termination carried out where the life of the mother is at risk is technically legal, there actually is no legislation for this in place so any Doctor who would have performed a termination for Savita could have potentially faced legal proceedings, hence her requests were refused (rather than go into Ireland's long and sordid history on abortion, here's a fairly succinct article on this matter from todays Guardian that explains it all nicely for me).
A D&C was finally carried out once a foetal heartbeat was no longer detected but at that stage it was too late. Savita was brought to ICU immediately post surgery but tragically, she died of septicaemia. The interviews I've read with Savita's husband Praveen have been truly heartbreaking. For the past 24 hours I've been on a loop of being on the constant verge of tears before wanting to punch a's just so hard to comprehend how this could have gone so wrong for this poor woman and her family.
Pro-life groups have come out in force today and have clutched on to anything they can to uphold their sense of self-righteousness, for instance, Health Minister James Reilly saying that he "doesn't think" decisions made in Savita's care were based on religion, even though Savita's husband has said that he was told termination would not be possible because "this is a Catholic country". Brilliant. So Reilly is basing his opinion on nothing at all and simultaneously is also completely ignoring what Mr Halappanavar has said he was told. In turn, Youth Defence have decided to pass this on as if Reilly's baseless thoughts on the matter are of any use to this or, for that matter, any situation. Why should anyone at this stage be relying on what any of this government has to say- Taoiseach Enda Kenny and General Waste of Space (his official title) Ronan Mullen have both come out with pointless and hollow comments today too, again based on nothing but their own closed minded opinions.
So what now? Do we all carry on as usual and allow yet another government get away with not legislating on X? Whatever your opinion on abortion, surely no one would wish a situation like Savita's on anyone- because if you're against terminations for medical reasons you have to understand what that means- it means that you, your mother, daughter, sister or friend could find yourself/herself in this exact same situation with potentially the exact same horrific outcome. We need, as a nation to start caring about women and their reproductive rights. Enda Kenny has previously stated that abortion is not a priority for this government and you know, that coming from Fine Gael is no surprise but Labour have always claimed to be pro-choice and yet have so far done nothing to back that stance. It's time now to get angry (angrier, if you're me) and put our collective feet down.
This past year has seen a worldwide war on women- Colette Brown highlighted this in her article today in The Irish Examiner where she refers to the likes of US politicians; Romney, Ryan, Akin and Mourdock, witlessly voicing their opinions on women's bodies, rape and abortion, which was shocking for most normal people to witness but thankfully they were all defeated in the elections (oh I did a merry dance that day, I can tell you). Over here though, it's been just as bad. I refuse to understand why there has been a complete lack of proper sentencing in the last year for violent criminals who have viciously assaulted women, or why every government since 1992 has failed to legislate for a procedure that could save women's lives. Now this case of a young woman dying it because women are deemed to be less important in our society than men (that's not me getting on my feminist high horse by the way, Enda Kenny has explicitly stated that abortion was not an important issue for this government, as I previously mentioned above)? Or is it because there are practically no female politicians in government to represent us? Or is it because our politicians are self serving liars who don't want to rock the boat? Personally, I believe it's an unhealthy mix of all three. A depressing and sobering thought.
If like me, you are sick and tired of this current state of affairs then there's a few things you can do.
Firstly, please write or email your TD and ask them to legislate for the X case. If you're unsure how to go about this, then check out the National Women's Council of Ireland- it goes through it step by step, which I found really handy. Here's the link for that: NWCI- take action.

Secondly, I've found it really useful to follow these pages on Facebook: Unlike Youth Defence, I trust Women to Decide Their Lives For ThemselvesIrish Feminist NetworkChoice IrelandIrish Choice Network and TFMR Ireland. I follow these pages not only because I support their viewpoints but also because they're another avenue of information, which is always a good thing.

Lastly, if you'd like to show your support for Savita and her family, there will be a protest starting at 1pm at Daunt Square in Cork on Friday the 16th of November, a protest starting outside Debenhams in Limerick at 3pm, also on Saturday the 16th and a vigil held at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin at 4pm Saturday the 17th of November.

Ireland failed Savita, her husband and her family and I for one am ashamed to be Irish today.
If you have any thoughts on this issue, you can comment below- I'd love to read them.


  1. Abortion has always been those thick as mud issues. But in this case and one other I read about in another country, I don't see why there was any question. The end result was that all lives at stake were lost. The baby was already dying and they could do nothing to save it so why didn't they try saving the mother? This case was nothing about Pro-Life to me because they chose one dying life over one that could be saved. It's like they put a death sentence on the mother. What's so Pro-Life about that?

    The views on women is why I voted for Obama and not Romney. I was very much appalled with Romney's perspective. It does seem the world is going against women this year. But what's worse is that the views against women are either ignorant or based on horrible info. Really, I was about ready to spit when all these people rallied against the birth control issue because they didn't want their taxes spent so that I could have sex. Really? Did they even know what the pill really does? And no one wanted to listen to me when I would say I was on BC for other reasons as per my doctor. Such closed mindedness and blatant disregard for facts.

    The problem to me is that there is a lack of understanding of women's health. You got the big general stuff, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, there's a lack of knowledge, yet politicians and organizations feel they have the right to act as though they truly comprehend all parts of women's health as though we don't know how to take care of ourselves.

    1. I completely agree with you that abortion is not a clear cut issue but like you also said, it should have been straight forward in this case. What makes this so appalling is that this legislation should have been brought in 20 years ago but no government during that time has had the guts to go against the Catholic ethos of this country- The Catholic Church, an archaic and disgraced institute that would rather see women die than terminate a foetus. It actually doesn't make any sense at all when you think about it.
      I think the problem with the birth control issue is that you're dealing with really narrow minded and usually ignorant people who not only fail to understand how the pill works and it's importance but also have fairly deep rooted misogynistic views about women- unfortunately I don't think we'll ever get through to those types of people, which is incredibly frustrating.
      You're dead right, there is a huge lack of understanding of women's health- as Todd Akin recently ably demonstrated. A lot of people were shocked by his comments but really worryingly- a lot of people didn't see any issue with it, which is quite terrifying. It's much more preferable for the likes of Todd Akin and his cronies (or indeed most Irish politicians) to keep women suppressed and not provide access to family planning services or abortion because to do so would be against THEIR views. It's so infuriating.

  2. I'll be going to that protest at Daunt Sq I can tell you that much!
    Also have so far written 4 letters to local Politicians. As a human rights postgraduate researcher and a law graduate I have never been more ashamed to be Irish.

    1. I'm gonna try and get to the one in Limerick and I've written to my TDs. Planning on sending Enda Kenny a piece of my mind too. It's actually just beyond disgraceful at this point, I genuinely hope the ECHR come down on them like a tonne of bricks.

  3. I think that Savita's case has put the spotlight back on this subject again. Our government are living in the dark ages. It makes me so ashamed and disgusted to be Irish. I have the upmost respect for each and every member of medical staff all around our country but what they put that poor women through was disgraceful. The blood is on their hands. It's about time the citizens in this country got angry. A government should be afraid of it's people, not the other way around.

    1. I completely agree with you- Savita's treatment was disgraceful, I'm still disgusted that something like that could happen in one of our hospitals in this day and age. It's just horrendous.
      Dead right about the government too, they've been allowed get away with this for far too long and I'm positively seething with rage that they're still fobbing the people of this country off- definitely time to get angry.

  4. Chloe, fair play to you for writing this, I thought about it yesterday, but I couldn't even fathom where to start.
    I can't imagine her poor husband's rising panic as he watched his wife die in front of his eyes as doctors and nurses fobbed him off with technicalities and excuses.
    The worst of it is that it's not as though there was nothing they *could* do, there was simply nothing they *would* do.
    The headline in the India Times today was "Ireland Murders Pregnant Indian Dentist".
    Let's see what Mr Europen of the Year will do about this. It could be any one of us next. Scary.

    1. I know we were just talking about this on twitter but it reminded me that I hadn't replied to your comment, even though I thought I had! Doh!
      I'm the exact same- I can't stop imagining the panic, the fear and the complete helplessness they felt during her last few days. It's really just a horrifying situation and I'm SO, SO ANGRY.
      To be honest, when I read the headline and article in the India Times, I was shocked, but then when I thought about it- that is exactly what happened. That's how her parents feel and I can't blame them, I'd feel the same way.
      And also- spot on, it could be any of us. No one thinks something like this will happen to them but it easily could unless the legislation is brought in.
      My thoughts about the medical staff is that they undoubtedly should've done something to ease her suffering- a termination at that stage was obviously the best care they could've given her, they didn't and they hugely failed her. I will say that I hope there was no maliciousness or malpractice in that decision- I hope that the staff genuinely were unclear of how to act because of the lack of legislation in place- they had to have been able to prove that her life and not her health was at risk, obviously now they can prove that her life was at risk but it may have been harder at the time as the sepsis most likely didn't become apparent until after the D&C, judging by the reports in the papers.
      Regardless, I think she should've been given a termination the second she requested one, but then I think every woman should be able to make that decision here and clearly that's not happening either. AArgh.