Death of Savita Halappanavar
A chara, – Those using the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar as a reason to legalise abortion in Ireland should be held to account for this shameless and disgusting behaviour.
On the face of it, this maternal death may have absolutely nothing to do with the issue of abortion, and everything to do with implementing medical practice as it currently stands.
Instead of those in the community holding this woman up as a reason to implement the intentional taking of a life through abortion, we should be mourning her death, and waiting for the outcome of the investigations. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – With all the Government’s support for The Gathering, I’m sure that I speak for many from the Diaspora in saying that the death of Savita Halappanavar reminds us all too well of the reasons we left Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I feel very sad for Savita and Praveen Halappanavar. I also feel sad for all those doctors who, day in, day out, have to deal with critical illness in pregnant women.
Theirs is a heavy burden, made all the heavier by the knowledge they are held in a legislative limbo that threatens their personal liberty and their livelihood.
The only legislation covering this difficult area is the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which provides for a minimum sentence of two years hard labour, up to penal servitude for life, for anyone who intervenes with intent to cause a miscarriage.
Medical Council guidelines use the words “rare” and “exceptional” to describe circumstances where it may be necessary to terminate a pregnancy. The Supreme Court ruled 20 years ago that abortion was lawful where there was a real and substantial threat to the life, as opposed to the health, of the mother. The Constitution acknowledges to right to life of the unborn “with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”. It is that grey area which poses both a challenge to doctors and a threat to them and their patients.
In the absence of modern legislation, clarifying the circumstances in which termination of pregnancy is lawful, as opposed to potentially criminal, there remains a real risk to the liberty, or livelihood, of a doctor who terminates a pregnancy for any reason in this State. The risk is that another person, whether a colleague, or a member of the public who comes to know of the matter, may report it to An Garda Síochána, or to the Medical Council. The inevitable outcome is a rearguard, defensive position for the doctor.
It is such uncertainty that is likely to lead to hesitation in taking an irrevocable step in the care of a pregnant woman, such as may create dangerous delays and potentially lead to tragic consequences. The Government has already been found in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, by failing to ensure that a woman can secure a legally authoritative determination of what her rights are in her individual situation. It is 20 years since the X case and two years since the European Court of Human Rights judgment, although the relevant application was made five years before that.
The only way in which this situation can be improved, for the benefit of mothers and their other children, and to protect their doctors, allowing those doctors to exercise their clinical knowledge without fear, is for the legislature to accept the responsibility they have sought in elections. The people of Ireland have spoken several times, to indicate that they do not believe abortion is evil in every circumstance. How many women must die due to fear and ignorance, before our legislators will be brave and accountable? – Yours, etc,