Irish abortion legislation

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This is the second of a two-part post about abortion. This part is about my opinion on Savita, Irish law and the public reaction. For part 1 (about why I am pro-choice), click here.

The recent death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway has brought the abortion debate back in to the public sphere. I even ended up debating about it with my parents yesterday morning. Unsurprisingly, my mum was outraged and my dad “wanted to wait until he had all the facts”, and therefore, in my opinion anyway, completely missed the point of the entire thing.

Whether or not Savita Halappanavar died because she was refused an abortion (supposedly on the grounds that “this is a Catholic country”) is irrelevant. The fact that it could have (and in all honestly, most likely did) cause her death is enough to cause public outrage. Savita was refused an abortion and forced to miscarry for three days. The doctors knew the child had no chance of surviving, but claimed that they could not grant her an abortion as long as there was a heartbeat present, which is in fact not true under Irish law, for anyone wondering.

This is akin to going into hospital with stomach pains and being told your appendix is about to burst, only then to be told that the doctors aren’t allowed to remove it until it actually bursts. It is, quite simply, crazy. Under current Irish law, abortion is only allowed in circumstances in which the mother’s life is at risk. Why Savita was denied an abortion remains unclear, although the doctor must have (wrongly) made the judgement that her life was not at risk. My father made an interesting point when he said she probably would have been treated better if she were white.

Personally, I am pro-choice. I believe that an abortion should be granted if a woman demands one. According to the UK Department of Health, 4,149 Irish women received abortions in England and Wales last year. That is an average of just over 11 a day. The fact that eleven women a day are willing to go abroad to get an abortion shows that there is a serious need to legislate for this, something the Irish government has failed to do in the 20 years since the X Case.

A figure that is often thrown around by the anti-abortion lobby in Ireland is that Ireland is the third safest country in the world in which to have a child. For all the times I have heard this, I have never actually been presented with any evidence to back this claim up. According to the CIA, Ireland has the 15th lowest maternal mortality rate in the world, which is what I assume is meant by Ireland being one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a child. It is true that this puts the UK, where abortion is legal on demand, behind Ireland.

Even though this is the case, of the 14 countries ahead of Ireland in the rankings, only one (Poland) does not allow abortion. I’m not trying to use this as an argument for abortion, but merely to discredit an argument often made by the anti-abortion side.

I really hope that something positive can come from this tragedy. Before now, the abortion debate was one that the majority of people were fairly apathetic about. I hope that Irish people will put pressure on politicians to finally legislate for the X Case. I hope that Irish people push for legal and safe abortion for anybody who feels they need it, and that we give the required care to those who choose to go down that route.

As ever, I welcome any discussion on this topic. Whether you agree with me or not, I only ask that you remain respectful and open to debate. I do not wish to be lectured at, cursed at or lied to. If you cannot follow these rules, I will no longer engage you.

Thanks for reading.

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