Women must be allowed to make informed decisions about crisis pregnancies
A few days before the 1983 referendum that gave us article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, a heartbroken man spoke out. Brendan Hodgers described the death of his wife Sheila in an Irish hospital.
She had cancer but was taken off all drugs and treatments when she became pregnant because they might harm or kill the foetus. Mr Hodgers said that with his wife screaming in agony, he asked for her to be given an abortion. He got no reply. After giving birth to a premature baby girl who died immediately, Sheila Hodgers died.
He revealed his personal tragedy in the hope that it would remind Irish people that sometimes a woman needs an abortion and that the amendment could cost women’s lives. In the same year, an Irish man was convicted of the rape of two girls aged 14 and 16, both of whom had given birth to babies.
The architects of the amendment swept aside all such sorrowful facts. Ireland was a Catholic country, they insisted. Feminists who said they wanted contraception, women’s refuges, rape crisis centres, support for single mothers and divorce, were out to destroy traditional Irish values. Abortion must be banned in all circumstances. Leading campaigner John Reilly warned that those who opposed the amendment were opportunists whose strategy would be to spread confusion by arguing for abortion in cases of rape, incest, alleged “life and death” situations, and in the case of foetal abnormality.
The counter-strategy was to convince the people that abortion was, in the words of Fine Gael TD Alice Glenn “a slaughter of the innocents”.
The Catholic bishop Joseph Cassidy said in the full confidence of his moral authority that the most dangerous place for a child to be in the world was in a woman’s womb.
The zealots didn’t get the wording they originally wanted. Women were to be given equal rights with the foetus. However, they were confident when the amendment was passed that Ireland was the safest place in the world to be unborn.
In 1992, they were appalled when the Supreme Court ruled that a suicidal 14-year-old girl, pregnant as a result of rape, had a constitutional right to an abortion in Ireland. This followed huge demonstrations of solidarity for the child by the Irish public, with candlelit marches, impassioned debates, and, most potent of all, the brave and sometimes devastated voices of women and children telling their own secret abortion stories to journalists.
The late John McGahern believed pregnancy was a private matter and felt “nothing but shame” upon being asked to vote in the subsequent referendum to give or withhold from women the right to travel or obtain information about abortion. The whole sorry situation was the fault of cowardly politicians who had failed to legislate, he wrote.
Praveen Halapannavar has described the death in agony of his pregnant wife Savita. He said that when, knowing she was miscarrying, she asked for an abortion, she was refused and told that she was in a Catholic country. The foetus died and was delivered, and later Savita died. They should, her grieving husband said, have saved “the bigger life”. The couple could have had other babies.
Anti-abortionists – and let us call them this, for they are no more pro-life than the rest of us – have accused pro-choice activists of being opportunists over this case. There is no problem with our laws or our Constitution, they insist.
But Mr Halapannavar, through his friends, went to the Galway Pro-Choice group and decided with its support to reveal the story of his tragedy because, like Brendan Hodgers 30 years ago, he wanted to let the Irish people know that our prohibition on abortion can cost the lives of women.
Article 40.3.3 has been a disaster. It has led to misery and it has failed to stop women from wanting, needing and in many cases getting abortions.
Ten women a day leave Ireland for terminations, and others go online and order abortion drugs. Proposed restrictions through further amendments were rejected in 1992 and 2002. Opinion polls show steadily increasing support for liberalising abortion law.
Successive governments have claimed legislating for article 40.3.3 is too complicated. This one must give us the chance to remove it and legislate in a way that trusts women to make informed decisions about crisis pregnancies.
Doctors should never be distracted in clinical emergencies by worries about the distinction between life and health, intentional and unintentional outcomes.
This is not a Catholic country. It is not opportunistic to talk about rape and incest and life and death situations and foetal abnormality in relation to abortion. It is the real experience of women.
Who, instinctively and lovingly, does not understand and support what Praveen Halapannavar said about “the bigger life”?
Reporter Oonagh Murphy reported on the excerpts of the report from the Expert group set up to review the X Case ruling.
It seems that the expert group reports back that the options are to put in place guidelines, legislation or regulations.
Guidelines, which can be put in place quickly can be easily amended but they would have no legal force behind them and would not meet the recommendations of the EU court of human rights.
Legislation would meet the recommendations of the EU courts of human rights, but it will mean time spent drawing them up, time spent debating for it to be passed. Legislation will take more time and has a lack of flexibility in the future as medical advances are made.
Regulations in conjunction with legislation may offer flexibility but will have to be backed with legislation which will allow the regulations to be changed as needed.
It was also reported that the X Case only deals with the risk to the life of the woman rather then the risk to health and as a result cases like those of Savita may not be covered by anything which the government put in place.
Tuesday the 27th of November has been given for the publication of the report.
Those who opposed the 8th amendment were accused of being pro abortion and running a campaign for abortion when they were questioning the flawed nature of the 8th amendment.
The 8th Amendment introduced the following clause into Article 40.3 of the Constitution:
3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
For Release: Galway Pro Choice Were Approached by Savita’s Friends
As was made clear by Sarah McCarthy of Galway Pro Choice on last night’s Prime Time programme on RTE, Galway Pro Choice were approached by the friends of Savita Praveen Halapannavar on 3rd November 2012. They came to us before going public with her story. Their only wish was to try to make sure that what
happened to Savita would never happen to another woman again in Ireland.
After an initial phone call on 3rd November from a friend of Savita and Praveen’s, Savita’s friends sent Galway Pro Choice an email containing more details of the case. A meeting between Galway Pro Choice and approximately ten of Savita’s friends then took place, during which they explained the facts of the case as they saw them. They believed that a termination may have saved Savita’s life. They requested the assistance of Galway Pro Choice in deciding how to proceed.
Galway Pro Choice presented Savita’s friends with a number of options, including the option of not releasing the story at all. The option of releasing the story anonymously, without a name or place being mentioned, was also discussed. However, Savita’s friends and her husband Praveen felt that going fully public with the tragic story of Savita’s death was what they wanted to do in order to bring home to the public how Ireland’s abortion laws can place pregnant women in danger. A phone call between Galway Pro Choice and Savita’s husband Praveen, in India, also occurred, in which Praveen reiterated his desire to go public with the story.
Galway Pro Choice then put Praveen and his friends in touch with the Irish Times. We explicitly made clear to Praveen and his friends that if they were uncomfortable in any way, at any stage, with any of our activities they should just say so and we would immediately do what they wished. We have informed them in advance of all of our planned activities so far, and they have been supportive of all of them. Savita’s friends were present at the candlelit vigil we held on Saturday in Galway, and expressed their amazement that anyone could say that we were ‘taking advantage of’ or ‘hijacking’ the tragedy of Savita’s death.
Now that these facts have been made clear, any and all implications by anti-choice campaigners or politicians to the effect that Pro-Choice groups are taking advantage of this tragedy should stop. If they do not, they must be interpreted as deliberately misleading statements. As well as being false, they are offensive and potentially upsetting to Savita’s family and friends.
Galway Pro Choice would also like to make the following points:
– We must legislate on the X Case immediately; Government statements that it will take months to get legal clarity are unacceptable.
– Minister for Health James Reilly must instigate a fully independent public inquiry now.
– The Expert Group Report should be released to the public immediately.
– The only way to safeguard the health of pregnant women in Ireland is to guarantee access to free, safe, and legal abortion for all women.
We will be holding a public meeting this Thursday, 22nd November, at 7:30pm in the Harbour Hotel in Galway on the urgent need to legislate for the X Case. Speakers include Clare Daly ULA TD; Mary Smith, a retired midwife and pro-choice activist, and Ailbhe Smyth, former Head of Women’s Studies at University College Dublin, and women’s rights activist. Sarah McCarthy of Galway Pro-Choice will chair the meeting.
On Saturday, December 1st we will be hosting a national demonstration in Galway on the need to immediately legislate for the X Case. The demonstration will assemble at the Spanish Arch at 2pm.
For more information email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0860621503 or 0877060715.
Yes Pro Choice groups did know about Savita’s death before the newspapers were published and they respected the family’s requests.
Herself and no one from her offices responded to my initial email send on the 2nd of November, but responded to the one I send yesterday.
Fri, 16 Nov 2012 13:17:28
I wish to acknowledge and thank you for your recent email in relation to the tragic and dreadful story of Savita Halappanavar, the 31-year-old dentist who died from septicaemia in NUIG after being refused a termination when miscarrying.
First and foremost, this is a human tragedy, and all sympathies should be extended to her husband Praveen and her family who are now grieving.
Investigations are being carried out the by hospital’s risk review group and the HSE’s National Incident Management Team as well as by the coroner in Galway. In other words, we don’t know the full circumstances of the case, and we should resist the temptation to get drawn into coming to conclusions in absence of all the facts.
That does not mean that we can or should avoid considering this case in the context of the X Case and of the report of the Expert Group that was established by the Government.
This issue has been with us now for 20 years and this is the first Government that has decided that were are going to deal with it. We put place a process, an Expert Group chaired by Judge Ryan to address all of the issues, to make recommendations to us. That Expert Group looked for an extension on the period of time they needed to consider the issues. It is a complex and sensitive area. They have now completed their work, submitted their report to Minister for Health and will be presented to Cabinet once the Minister has considered its contents. Whether the Expert Group recommends legislation or regulation, we will not ignore it. Legal clarity is required on this issue.
The Programme for Government negotiated by both Labour and Fine Gael on forming government contains the following commitment:
“We acknowledge the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights subsequent to the established ruling of the Irish Supreme Court on the X-case. We will establish an expert group to address this issue, drawing on appropriate medical and legal expertise with a view to making recommendations to Government on how this matter should be properly addressed.”
Tackling the issues around the X Case is a complex matter and while Deputy Daly’s Private Members Bill was welcome in facilitating debate, it was not without flaws.
There were number of concerns around the detail and drafting of the Bill that lacked clarity and that could have caused confusion. The Bill was therefore not appropriate as a basis for addressing the many complexities in this area.
Joan Burton TD
Minister for Social Protection
Recieved on the 15/11/2012 16:00
First of all thank you very much for your email. I fully support the need for the legislation on the X case and have done so for some time.
Last April legislation was presented to the Dail to bring in this law which I voted For. I believe this is twenty years overdue.
As recently as November 14th I raised the matter directly with Enda Kenny at the order of business in the Dail.
Here is a link to a statement I released yesterday following the tragic death of Savita which is a tragedy which should never have happened – http://www.patricknulty.ie/?p=1532
I also requested that the issue be debated in the Dail yesterday which forced the Minister for Health to come in and explain himself.
I believe that it is a disgrace that 20 years on this matter has not been addressed and is it is a fundamental issue of equality for women. I will do everything in my power to campaign for change on this crucial issue.
Patrick Nulty TD
It has been 20 years from the High Court ruling on the XCase and the referendum in which the Irish people rejected to rule out “risk to the life of the mother” as a reason for a lawful termination or legal abortion.
But even if tomorrow this government was to legislate for the XCase ruling where the previous 6 have failed to do, it would not be enough.
It would not be enough, as it won’t cover women who need a medical termination due to fatal fetal abnormalities.
The worst news that any expecting parent can receive, is that their unborn child will not survive outside of the womb. The law in Ireland does not allow mothers and fathers the personal choice to terminate a pregnancy under these very tragic circumstances. Instead, we are forced abroad, without care or advice, to undergo termination procedures.
It won’t be enough as it won’t cover women like Michelle Harte, was being treated for cancer.
A woman who is terminally ill has claimed she was forced to travel to Britain for an abortion earlier this year.
She was advised by her doctors to terminate her pregnancy because of the risks to her health. However, an ethics forum at Cork University Hospital decided against sanctioning an abortion for her in Ireland.
Michelle Harte of Co. Wexford said that doctors at the hospital where she was being treated for cancer had advised her to terminate her pregnancy because of the risks to her health.
However, the ethics forum went against the medical advice on the basis that Michelle Harte of Co Wexford’s life was not under immediate threat.
It wont be enough for Ms C, had been under going chemotherapy for 3y years and when she took the Irish State to the EU court of Human rights they found that the state violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in how it had failed her due to there being no way she could find out if she could have a lawful termination or legal abortion here at home.
3 reasons why to legislate for X is not enough, women deserve better.
I’ve been prochoice from my teens and have been a pro choice activist for the last 20 years.
It hasn’t been easy at times, I have easily been called a ‘baby murderer’ a thousand times.
I’ve given information to women, I’ve sent them to where they can get real information and real help and not be held hostage by pro life agencies.
This year has seen a resurgence of pro choice activism, many more people are saying out loud and to other people that they are pro choice. They are breaking that taboo, women are sharing their stories, we are making Art and making sure we are heard.
One of the meetings I went to (which I wrote about here) resulted in the setting up of the Irish Choice Network http://www.irishchoicenetwork.com to forge links between the many different pro choice groups around the country.
It has been wonderful to work with and draw inspiration from to learn and share with so many pro choice people.
It is empowering to see people who want the make our country a better place. Unfortunately our efforts didn’t come soon enough to put in place the legislation which would have saved Savita Halappanavar.
How ever we will fight on and the more people join us to the better, the line had been drawn please join us.
PROTEST at Savita’s death – Legislate for X case now
Public event · By Pro-Choice Campaign Ireland
Legislate now for X!
Join us at the Dail, Kildare Street from 6pm on Wednesday 14th November.
Candlelight vigil in memory of Savita Halappanavar
Public event Today 19:00
Cork Opera House, Emmet Place.
In light of the death of Savita Halappanavar, there is a protest outside the Dail tonight by an Irish pro-choice group. In solidarity with the group, and to express our own shock and anger at the death of Savita Halappanavar, there will be a London-based pro-choice protest tonight. This will be at 6pm, at 17 Grosvenor Place, SW1X 7HR.
andlelit Vigil for Savita
Public event · By Galway Pro-Choice
No more tragedies. Legislate NOW.
Public event · By Action On X
From the Garden of Remembrance to the Dáil, where we will hold a candlelight vigil in conjunction with Galway Pro-Choice to grieve Savita’s unnecessary death