After the tragedy that was Savita Halappanavar and child’s untimely deaths (the mother’s being more than preventable) in 2012, the Irish government is finally inducting new laws which aim at protecting the life of the mother.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 will ensure that doctors can protect the life of the mother if the pregnancy poses “real and substantial” risks, including the threat of suicide.
The new laws seem even more essential after the Health Information and Quality Authority in October 2013 published a report detailing Savita’s case, and stating firmly and clearly that the Irish health system had failed in giving her the most basic of health treatments and therein preventing her death.
Yet, despite the obvious sense and humanity (especially concerning women) in the coming law, controversy continues to surround the much needed changes; one priest recently resigned from the board of a Catholic-owned hospital after they agreed to the new legislation while many more continue to protest and employ pro-life scare tactics, as seen in the image below and many of their (often false) publication and so-called “findings.”
For me, the real question which needs to be asked here is whether this legislation is really enough? Of course, it is extremely significant in terms of protecting the mother and is a huge step for the pro-choice movement and Irish women in general; yet does it go far enough? The legislation, after all, does not protect the mother in cases of rape, incest, foetal abnormality, or inevitable miscarriage which does not affect the mother’s health (accept, of course, her own sense of self and mental health…). Article 40.3.3 which equates the mothers life with that of the unborn foetus does not permit abortion in these cases, although the right to travel remains within the mother’s constitutional rights. In the case of fatal foetal abnormalities, of the estimated 1,500 cases diagnosed in Ireland every year almost 80 per cent of these women will travel to Great Britain in order to obtain an abortion; meanwhile an estimated 4,000 Irish women traveled to Britain in 2012 for the same procedure.
Yet, the demonisation and attack on women who consider, have, or admit they have had an abortion remains pertinent even in our modern culture. Women are treated as unworthy of control over their own bodies; they are incapable of making mature, conscious, and truly aware decisions regarding their bodies; they are not granted complete recognition as a human being because women’s bodies are a public property and belong to a public who demonise abortion simply due to old world understandings, false accusations, scare tactics, and archaic religious beliefs.
Is this how women deserve to be treated?