A rush to judgment is no basis for legalising abortion
We have had a very long public debate on abortion for more than three decades. Medical experts of every value position, including proponents of abortion on demand, have contributed to the debate. The Oireachtas has held extensive public hearings on medical practice during pregnancy.
Throughout these 30 years, there has been no suggestion from anyone that the process of miscarriage raises any legal or ethical concern whatsoever for mothers.
Sepsis requires very close monitoring and treatment. It is dangerous and potentially fatal. In Britain between 2006 and 2008, it was the leading cause of direct maternal deaths. Thirteen women died, of whom five were pregnant under 24 weeks’ gestation.
Women die, not because doctors are pro-life and deny or delay necessary treatment but because the condition is medically challenging. Some deaths occur without negligence, though the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states, in relation to the maternal deaths from sepsis between 2003 and 2005, “Sadly, substandard care was identified in many of the cases . . . ”
The case is being made by abortion advocates that this tragic death is a reason for politicians to rush to implement the Supreme Court decision permitting abortion at all stages of pregnancy on the basis of suicidal ideation. There is no validity in this argument.
To take such a step is not necessary for the proper care and treatment of mothers undergoing miscarriages. Ireland is up among the very safest countries in the world in the medical care of women during pregnancy.
Miscarriages, sadly, occur frequently. How Irish doctors treat miscarriage is an integral part of this medical care and no-one has ever suggested that mothers are denied fully appropriate care during miscarriage. Yet apparently Mr Halappanavar was told directly the opposite by a consultant.
That is the mystery which needs to be unravelled. One can only speculate as to its resolution.
But one thing seems certain: that Irish medical practice today does not need the introduction of an abortion regime into our hospitals.
For politicians to rush to judgment and transform the culture of Irish medical care by authorising the termination of the lives of unborn children based on suicidal ideation would be a tragedy. For politicians to take this step on an assumption that has no factual basis in the context of the treatment of miscarriage would be a double tragedy.
Savita Halappanavar’s death has given a new focus to the wider debate on abortion.
Let us all ensure that, in engaging in that debate, we respect the values of letting the full story be heard, keeping open minds on facts that need to be established and avoiding going down a path of profound injustice from which it would be very hard to retrace our steps.
William Binchy is a barrister at law and legal adviser to the Pro Life Campaign