As Texas and North Carolina move towards sharply restricting abortion access, a country infamous for its own restrictive abortion laws is inching towards liberalization. Last week, Irish lawmakers passed a bill that would allow abortions to be performed to save a woman’s life. This vote moves the government closer to following a 1992 Supreme Court decision, which found that abortion should be legal if doctors feel it is necessary to protect a woman’s health, including if she threatens to commit suicide; however, six previous governments refused to pass a law in support of this ruling.
Following the death of Savita Halappanavar in October, the Irish government has decided to legalize its abortion laws. The 31-year-old Halappanavar was seventeen weeks pregnant when she was admitted to Galway University Hospital on October 20 with back pains; tests performed at the hospital showed that the pregnancy was not viable. Though Halappanavar repeatedly requested an abortion, she was reportedly told that Ireland “is a Catholic country” and the pregnancy would not be terminated. Four days after Halappanavar was admitted, the fetal heartbeat stopped; however, her condition continued to deteriorate and she died of septicemia three days later.
Currently, abortions in Ireland are allowed only when the woman’s life (distinct from health) is in danger; however, there is no one agreed-upon method for determining when that is the case. The new laws, which, according to the Telegraph, are expected to be “ready by Easter,” would mean that abortion is no longer considered a criminal act. This legislation would also clarify when doctors can terminate a pregnancy when the woman’s life is considered to be at risk, “including by suicide.”
On October 21, a 31-year-old woman went to University Hospital Galway, in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar had back pain and was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child; upon exam, doctors told Savita and her husband, Praveen, that she was experiencing a miscarriage. As the pain continued and her water broke, Savita asked if the pregnancy could be terminated. But, according to her husband, “‘They said unfortunately she can’t because it’s a Catholic country. … Savita said … she is not Catholic, she is Hindu, and why impose the law on her.” The hospital’s response was that, because Ireland is a “Catholic country,” an abortion couldn’t be performed if the fetus still had a heartbeat. Although Savita asked repeatedly that the pregnancy be terminated, her requests were always denied. Several days later, the heartbeat stopped, but Savita’s condition was worsening, and she was moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit. She died on October 28.
As Ireland waits for a landmark ruling by the European court of human rights, controversy over abortion and women’s health in Ireland has become a hotspot for international scrutiny. According to the Human Rights Watch, Irish legislation, in which women who obtain an abortion are sentenced to life in prison, is putting women’s lives at risk. In addition, recent legislation banning abortion has been inspired by deliberate misinformation from rogue anti-choice agencies.
Women have been told they may become infertile, require a hysterectomy or possibly need a colostomy bag after an abortion by agencies that target women seeking advice about unwanted pregnancies, says the report. [Read more...]
Three women are taking on Ireland’s rules on abortion. Ireland has one of the more strict bans on abortion in Europe. Most European nations allow abortion upon request, while others limit it to physical or mental health reasons for the procedure. The only country with a worse policy than Ireland at this date is Malta which prohibits abortion completely, even to save the life of the pregnant woman! At least Ireland has an exception for the life of the woman.
However, this is not good enough and the rights of women in Ireland need to be addressed. This week three Irish women went to England and took their case to the Council of Europe. They all have different stories for why getting an abortion was so important to them. One woman was already in a custody battle and the others had health concerns for themselves or the fetuses. They all had the hardship of traveling away from home to get the abortion adding to their difficult situations.
Legal counsel for the women is arguing that the laws against abortion violate their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. This is on the grounds that not being able to have access to abortion in Ireland threatened their health and well-being. As we know, terminating a pregnancy is a difficult situation and having to go to a different country causing unneeded stress, including the extra expensive and stigmatization that occurs due to Ireland’s unfair abortion policy.
Holy Supreme Court nomination hearings, Batgirl! It’s hard to believe that Sotomayor’s confirmation proceedings begin today, but they’re finally here. We’ll be live blogging throughout the whole process, so the links are a bit light today. Enjoy!
Irish Women Challenge Abortion Ban – Feminist Daily News
House of Reps Eliminates Funding for Abstinence-Only Education – RH Reality Check
Debunking 5 Common Myths About Birth Control – San Francisco Examiner