“This is a Catholic country”: Savita Halappanavar’s unnecessary death

On November 13 the Irish Times reported on Savita Halappanavar’s unnecessary death. They wrote:

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer atBoston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

Make no mistake about it, this woman was denied an abortion and proceeded to die a horrifyingly painful and traumatic death. In Ireland though abortions are legal only to save the life of a woman (such as in this case) the law endorses those who place the life of the fetus above all else including the mother.

But even if an investigation into her death proves that she had an illness or would have died irregardless of an abortion, the medical practitioners at this Catholic hospital put the life of the fetus ahead of Savita’s. They subjected her to 3 days of pain and torment because their religious beliefs conflicted with providing ethical medical care. They should have their medical licenses revoked.

This has happened before.

A pregnant 16-year-old in the Dominican Republican was denied chemotherapy because of the potential harm to could to the fetus. Twenty days after she was admitted to the hospital they began chemotherapy and she died shortly after.

Her body rejected a blood transfusion and did not respond to the chemotherapy, and her condition worsened overnight, Cabrera said.

She then suffered a miscarriage early Friday, followed by cardiac arrest, and doctors were unable to revive her.

Welcome to the world that “prolife” advocates want women to live in. It’s a world where healthcare is denied based on the medical practitioners religious beliefs and women must suffer and die. It’s a world where cancer treatments for men and Viagra for them are considered life-giving and okay by God but providing life-saving care and options to a pregnant woman is considered intervening with God’s plan and a sin.

Savita Halappanavar was not a Catholic. She was forced to endure pain because she made the mistake of living on a country that dictates law based on religion.

This is the America that “prolife” advocates want.

While many “prolife” organizations have been quiet on this tragedy, Ireland’s “prolife” Youth Defence League put out a heinous statement deflecting any and all blame fromanti-abortion laws in Ireland:

Ireland’s ban on abortion does not pose a threat to women’s lives, according to the Obstetricians and Gynaecologists who care for Irish women every day. In fact, without abortion, Ireland is one of the safest places in the world for a mother to have a baby, according to the United Nations.

“This is a hugely difficult time for the family of Savita Halappanavar, and we hope that the investigations shed a full light on this tragic loss of life,” said Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute.

“It is very sad to see abortion campaigners rush to exploit this case to further their own agenda,” she added. “The tragic loss of Savita Halappanavar’s life was not caused by Ireland’s ban on abortion. We need to ensure that mothers and babies are best protected; and abortion is not part of best medical practise. It is medieval medicine. “

I don’t care much for this statement. I don’t care if after tests we find out she had some mysterious illness that would have killed her any way. The doctors at this Catholic hospital were negligent and put the life of a fetus before Savita’s own life. They forced her to suffer excruciating pain for days before she finally died. They refused to perform an abortion when it was obvious she was in pain and dying.  They refused to provide her with the care she needed and wanted. In my books, that’s a moral crime.

Just a few months ago, Life Site News stated that abortion is not medically necessary. Funnily enough (actually it’s not funny at all) 140 Irish doctors came to this conclusion after they participated in the International Symposium on Excellence in MaternalHealthcare. Life Site News went on to state:

The symposium particularly addressed issues of maternal mortality and morbidity, care for women with high-risk pregnancies, mental health, cancer in pregnancy, and fetal anomaly. Expert presentations addressed new therapies which involve the safe delivery of chemotherapy during pregnancy and the emerging field of in-utero fetal surgery.

How many of the doctors involved in this symposium had experience in the OB/GYM field? Probably not many.

A comment on the Life Site News article reveals:

Dr. Eoghan De Faoite is a medical professional who also serves as the Chairman of Youth Defence (which is a peaceful pro-life organization in Ireland). He served as a member of the organizing committee for the symposium. It’s not uncommon to have a Irish, pro-life medical doctor whose expertise is in the OB/GYN field.

One month ago Republican Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.) made the same claim.

“With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance,” Walsh said. “There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”

Savita Halappanavar proved them all wrong.

Another comment points out:

As a doctor trained in obstetrics, I can think of several instances where a pregnancy may have to be deliberately ended to save the woman’s life. This is different to treatment to save the woman’s life which may have the side-effect of ending the pregnancy (e.g. chemotherapy). I am talking about times when it is the pregnancy itself that is causing the danger. For example, severe early pre-eclampsia, where only delivery can save the life of the mother. I’ve seen this as early as the second trimester, where a foetus would have minimal chance of survival ex-utero. Or pulmonary hypertension, a cardiac condition which is massively exacerbated by pregnancy and may kill the woman if the pregnancy is not terminated. 

But this tragedy won’t deter hard-lined “prolifers” from their mission of subjugating women. Even today, I’ve seen petitions and the usual anti-choice propaganda circulating the internet.

Outlawing abortion without exception is dangerous and irresponsible. Fortunately, now more than ever, I am confident that heinous anti-choice legislation will never be law in the United States. Unfortunately, while some states continue to limit a woman’s right to choose, at least half of population wants abortion in legal in some way or another.

But for all of you who do consider yourself “prolife”, I suggest you take a good hard look at your reasoning.

If you’re “prolife” and support abortion in cases of rape, incest, and to save another’s life then you can’t use the argument that “life begins at conception” and that a “fetus is a person with rights”. If you support abortion in any case whatsoever, you’re pro-choice. And if you are against all forms of abortion, even life-saving ones, then you want to live in a world where women are forced to die horrific and traumatic deaths. And I not only disagree with your ideology, I don’t respect it. You don’t get to call yourself “prolife” if you’re anti-women’s health. I really hope this tragedy serves as a learning experience you.

And for the millionth time:

It’s my body, it’s my choice, it’s my right. Now back the fuck off.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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