Abortion Laws and its implications
Savita Halappanavar tragically lost her life on 28/10/12; the cause of death was reported to be septicaemia. However the headlines reported that it was due to the refusal of an abortion.
There are many countries where abortions are illegal under all circumstances, except to save a woman’s life. Some of these include, Malta, Vatican City, Brazil, Nigeria, Chile and of course, Ireland. Other countries have abortion laws that are restrictive but allowed in scenarios such as in the incidence of rape or to preserve one’s mental and/or physical health.
Religion, in particular Catholicism, feature as a common attribute among countries that ban termination. The religion teaches that life should be nurtured not destroyed. Foetuses have the right to live and by terminating pregnancies you are acting in opposition and in great moral evil.
However in this case the mother was already miscarrying.
I am not saying this is wrong, but my personal views are that of pro-life with the rights to choose. I am not in opposition of abortion; I am not in contest with the right of life. Each case has an individual story, individual priorities and considerations. I believe each person should have the option of choice.
In this example, Savita lost her life whilst pleading for assistance, which has been reported to be denied. We have heard how the couple presented in what seems to be in the process of a miscarriage. Savita had dilated and was leaking amniotic fluid, the baby was not viable. This was causing her extreme pain; however the unborn foetus had a detectable heartbeat, therefore causing the medical staff to deny her relief of the pain with a termination.
Here is my confusion; medical staff are bound by their Hippocratic Oath, to practise medicine ethically and honestly in the best interest of the patient, keeping them from harm.
Is it this oath or the laws that tied the hands of the clinicians?
I cannot accept that each medical professional saw Savita suffering and easily accepted to do nothing to help her. So what was it that prohibited them from taking action? The backlash from the law, which states, abortion is illegal unless it is to save the life of the mother? Was her life not deemed to be in danger?
It was not until the foetal heartbeat could not be detected that the foetus was removed. The cause of death for Savita, as mentioned, was Sepsis, an inflammatory infection. I assume the case the hospital will fight is whether the case of sepsis was directly caused by the prolonged time that Savita was pregnant. The case the family will take is whether the septicaemia could have been avoided by the early termination of the foetus.
The outrage on this issue has come from the assumption that in this modern day and age, where there is an availability of facilities, skills and scientific advancement, a woman should not lose her life due to lack of abortion, a fundamental reproductive right. My concern further extends to the millions of women that lose their lives where such facilities are unavailable. Some statistics can show where abortions are illegal or strongly prohibited, maternal mortality rates are high in the list of leading causes of death.
I bring this back to the reproductive health justice, everyone should have complete control and the ability to choose if, when, where, how and with whom they bring a child into the world. We should pride ourselves on our humanity and our ability to help, support and enable one another.
What we end up seeing is that rights are infringed where facilities are unavailable. Where laws are prohibitive, mankind are persistent and will find other ways to achieve their aims. Where abortions are illegal, we see the rates of unsafe abortions increase. Many lives are affected and in many cases lost due to the restrictive practices in place.
Is it not our responsibility to help one another? We need to take each case individually and not give a one size fits all policy. In this case it is too late, a man has lost his wife, parents their daughter, siblings their sister, we should learn and progress. Laws can be in place, but how can we justify losing both these lives when one could have been saved?
Many protests and vigils are being held, many petitions are being signed, one organisation, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, have published a letter that they are promoting to be sent to the Irish Prime Minister to change the current laws in place. This can be found on their blog; Justice for Women!
Let’s make sure this situation is not repeated and that Savita Halappanavar did not lose her life in vain.