This hasn’t been easy to write, it is hard to believe it has been 3 years.
3 years ago today on the 28th of October 2012 Savita Halappanavar died, leaving behind her bereft husband. On the 21st of October she had started to have a miscarriage and as the 8th amendment dictates miscarriage management in Ireland she was denied the options and care which would have been available to her in other countries.
She asked for the pregnancy to be ended, she asked for an abortion as there was no way to save the pregnancy and this was denied to her as there was a fetal heartbeat. So she was left to miscarry and eventually through a series of callous missteps went on to die from infection. The news of her death didn’t break in the press until the 14th of November when he husband took advice having not been able to believe the responses he was getting from the hospital admins. What happened to Savita shocked people in Ireland and internationally.
There were vigils held in front of the Dáil, all over Ireland and across europe. So many people started to wake up to what the 8th amendment means in terms of restriction to health care. The 1st big March for Choice had already happened and those who helped put that together did their best to network and get the word out about the vigils.
The next year the government finally after 23 years moved legislation to cover the X Case ruling. This became known as a the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act. This allowed for abortion in the case where a person is pregnant and suicidal. This new law did nothing to change miscarriage management. The international best practice for miscarriage management where there is no way to save the pregnancy is to offer the option of ending the pregnancy, either via surgery or via medical abortion using abortion pills.
Neither of these are currently legal in Ireland, and the new law the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act imposes a 14 year criminal sanction on any woman or dr who would end a pregnancy with a fetal heartbeat even in the case of inevitable miscarriage. This is another tragedy waiting to happen. Medical professionals should not have to wait for a patient’s condition to decline from the threat to health to a threat to life before taking action.
While the legally and medically nothing has changed in terms of the restrictions to miscarriage management, we as a nation has woken up to the injustices which the 8th amendment causes. Many brave women have stepped forward to share their stories so that we no longer only hear about this issue when someone had died or had taken a case to the courts.
The stigma which surrounds being pro choice and having had an abortion is being fought, we have had people stand up and say enough is enough, the Abortion Rights Campaign has been joined in their fight to repeal the 8th by Unions, Artists and by NGOs. Political parties find themselves having to state where they stand on the issue of repealing the 8th and if it is a red line issues for them.
Many people will be making sure they Vote Pro Choice in the upcoming General Election. Hopefully then we will soon see a referendum to remove the horrific amendment which has caused so much suffering and we will see miscarriage management and healthcare in Ireland come in line with best practice so that no one else when they ask for an abortion; esp when they are in pain and suffering (which the UN Committee on Human Rights terms as torture), demand an abortion to end it, it will be a health care option medical staff can offer in all our maternity hospitals and units.
3 years on and it’s still hard to watch the video of Savita dancing in the St Paticks Day parade in Galway. Herself and Praveen moved here, were part of the local community, wished to raise children here. In any other country she would have been given the abortion she asked for and then be able to go on to maybe have a child which she could have taught to dance, with whom she could have celebrated Diwali with next month.
We need to repeal the 8th amendment so that the words “Never Again” have real meaning for all those living in Ireland.