Savita Halappanavar: When “Pro-Life” Means Death

I am completely and totally appalled right now.

“This is a Catholic country” was what Irish doctors told Savita Halappanavar after she learned she was miscarrying her pregnancy and asked for an abortion to avoid further complications. She spent three days in agonizing pain, eventually shaking, vomiting and passing out. She again asked for an abortion and was refused, because the fetus still had a heartbeat.

Then she died.

She died of septicaemia and E.Coli. She died after three and a half days of excruciating pain. She died after repeatedly begging for an end to the pregnancy that was poisoning her. Her death would have been avoided if she had been given an abortion when she asked for it — when it was clear she was miscarrying, and that non-intervention would put her at risk. But the fetus, which had no chance of survival, still had a heartbeat. Its right to life quite literally trumped hers.’

In other words, Savita Hallappanavar was pregnant, and was miscarrying. However, the miscarriage was taking time, and was poisoning her in the process. This is the sort of thing that made pregnancy so risky before the advent of modern medicine. What she needed was for the doctors to finish the miscarriage. But Ireland is Catholic, and abortion is banned. Two decades ago, in what is now called “the X Case,” Ireland’s Supreme Court ruled that abortion must be allowed if a woman’s life is in danger. However, Ireland has never amended its laws to reflect this ruling, so current laws still state that participation in an abortion is punishable with years of penal servitude and doctors err on the side of caution rather than face the legal consequences. Savita desperately needed medical care that would have saved her life, and the doctors refused. They let her die. And again, she was miscarrying. The fetus was already doomed.

Lest you think that this couldn’t happen in our country, think again.

U.S. politicians and “pro-life” advocates like Joe Walsh will tell you that there are no circumstances under which women need abortions to avoid death or injury. The Republican platform doesn’t include an exception for medically necessary abortion. And the Republican party is trying to put laws similar to those in Ireland on the books in the United States — laws that would allow emergency room doctors to refuse to perform abortions, even in cases where the pregnant woman’s life or health depends on terminating the pregnancy.

Those laws that the pro-life movement keeps putting forward to “protect doctors’ right of conscience”? Those laws would allow this sort of thing to happen. In fact, a story came out last year about a woman who almost bled to death for this very reason – she was having a miscarriage at 20 weeks and was bleeding out but the doctor on call refused finish the miscarriage, and she was only saved when another doctor was finally called in at the last minute. This happened in the U.S., and it would become the law of the land if “right of conscience” bills passed.

An Irish bishop, John Fleming, wrote the following in the Irish Times yesterday in an attempt to explain the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and Ireland’s ban on the procedure:

In fact, Ireland, without abortion, is recognised as one of the safest countries in the world to be a pregnant mother. This is something about which we should be proud and is a tribute to the excellent care provided by hospital staff who treat both mother and unborn child with equal dignity and respect as people in their own right. Clearly, if the life of the mother is threatened, by illness or some other medical condition, the care provided by medical professionals will make sure that she receives all the medical care needed.

Savita clearly didn’t find Ireland a safe place to be a pregnant mother. Fleming may tout treating “both mother and unborn child with equal dignity and respect,” but Savita’s very preventable death would indicate otherwise. Savita’s life was threatened, and the medical professionals outright denied her “the medical care needed.”

For those who view life through the lens of their Christian faith, our bodies are sacred; temples of the Holy Spirit, created in the image of God and redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Christians, our bodies are not our own to do with them what we will. Our bodies come from God, are created in God’s image and destined for eternal life with him in heaven. This is our faith and this is what distinguishes us from those who do not share our faith.

Fleming says that “for Christians, our bodies are not our own to do with what we will.” That may be Fleming’s religious belief, but he has no right to assume that others share that belief or to impose it on others. Apparently, in Fleming’s view, God wanted Savita dead. Personally, when I look at Savita I see a woman who could have been saved.

I wrote last year about how scary it often felt to be pregnant during a period when new restrictions on abortion were popping up left and right. I talked about women currently being criminalized for miscarriages and about laws allowing doctors to lie to their patients about the fetus’ medical condition if that’s what it took to keep them from having abortions. I wrote about my concern that if I were to engage in physical activity my doctor had advised against (such as bicycling) and then miscarry, I might be charged with murder or at least reckless endangerment (believe it or not, there is precedent for that sort of thing).

I also wrote about Catholic hospitals. Whenever we traveled during my pregnancy, I harbored a fear that the nearest hospital – or possibly the only hospital in the area – might be a Catholic one. I felt very sure that if I were to go into a Catholic hospital with complications or while miscarrying, the doctors there would not be thinking of my health first and foremost. And as a young woman with my whole life ahead of me, and also a wife and at the time already the mother of a toddler, this reality was frightening.

A doctor or a hospital that objects to performing an abortion regardless of the circumstances is quite literally a hazard to women’s health, as Savita’s death makes clear. You know what we can do to honor Savita’s memory and bring something good out of the tragedy of her death? We can fight those so called “right of conscience” bills tooth and nail and make her death the last.

Note: For more, see my follow-up post, “‘Pro-Lifers’ Play Fast and Lose with the ‘Life of the Mother’ Exemption.”

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • machintelligence

    Appalled is an understatement, enraged is more accurate.
    The doctors involved should lose their license to practice, and perhaps face criminal charges.

    • Libby Anne

      Actually, if they HAD performed the abortion, they WOULD face criminal charges.

      • machintelligence

        IANAL, but it is my understanding that Ireland has a “life of the mother ” exemption.

      • Libby Anne

        Not exactly. The Supreme Court of Ireland ruled that there should be “life of the mother” exemption, but the politicians haven’t actually changed the law to allow for one. So in practice, there isn’t. Participating in an abortion is still legally punishable with years of penal servitude.

      • Steve

        Not necessarily. It’s very much a grey area. They could have risked it and then challenged the legal situation if anything actually happened. Instead they killed a woman to save their own asses.

      • machintelligence

        For further clarification, I am going to quote a portion of a comment from the Pharyngula blog at FTB:

        As someone who has worked at Galway University Hospitals, I feel I have to reinforce a point raised by ImaginesaBeach (comment #11):

        University Hospital Galway is not a “Catholic hospital”, in that it is not run or owned by a Catholic Order or any wing of the Catholic (or any other) church. It is managed, along with several other hospitals in the region, by a management team put in place by the Health Services Executive.

        Current guidance to Irish hospitals is that, while abortion to save the life of the mother (as a procedure) is not explicitly allowed for under Statute law, neither is it illegal, and under the Irish Constitution a doctor performing an abortion in order to save the life of the mother could not reasonably be prosecuted. Following Savita Halappanavar’s death, the main issue being reported and debated here in Ireland right now is not about the role of Catholicism per se (at least not at this moment), rather it is about the fact that for some reason (which, granted may be religious) the medical teams at the hospital did not carry out the necessary and lawful procedure; and that despite the fact that the Irish Constitution implicitly allows for termination of pregnancy in the event that the mother’s life is at risk, the appropriate legislation that would make this explicit and unambiguous has not been enacted (something which the European court of Human Rights has castigated Ireland over since 2010).

        You can find the whole comment here at number 104

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yes, that comment is completely correct. I am currently living close to where this all happened and have been somewhat active with local pro-choice groups. While no there has been no legislation yet to actually clarify the “X-case” exemption, and this “gray area” IS a deterrent for doctors, the likelihood that a doctor would actually have gone to prison in this situation is very low. It appears that it is not fear of the law that made these doctors act as they did but their own beliefs that a doomed fetal heartbeat was more important than a woman’s life.

      • Bix

        I’m glad that this is being dealt with as a human rights issue, at least through the European Court of Human Rights.

        The BBC article I read said that Irish law allows for abortion when it threatens the life of the woman, as distinct from her health, which seems really unclear and like it would encourage doctors to wait until a situation becomes absolutely dire and life-threatening before they act.

      • Didaktylos

        Another point to consider is that until the law is actually changed, any doctor who defied the existing law would be throwing away their career, even if they were acquitted at trial or appeal.

  • Steve

    Also note that she was (probably) Hindu and not Catholic. So that subhuman piece of shit priest droning on about “this is our faith” is all the more infuriating.

    Unfortunately, given Irish law the doctors who killed her probably can’t be criminally prosecuted. But I hope the husband sues them for malpractice.

  • Christine

    And this sort of thing is a large part of why, despite being very strongly anti-abortion (I refuse to say “pro-life”, because that means so many things, very few of them actually pro-life), I am also very strongly opposed to legal bans of any kind. There is no way to write a restriction that means anything into the law without it also covering cases that it shouldn’t.

  • plutosdad

    Margaret McBride, a nun at St. Joseph, was excommunicated because she ordered an abortion for a woman who was going to die if she didn’t get one, and afterward the local Bishop demanded she pledge to never do that again and she refused. It was an 11 week pregnancy too, and the mother’s blood pressure was skyrocketing, she had only a few hours left to live.

    Even if you believe the fetus is a person, it is truly bizarre that “pro life” people would rather 2 people die than one. If it is a person, it is still no different a situation than triage performed during emergencies.

    I think it also points out how the nuns and other people who actually spend their lives caring for others, are a lot more compassionate and realistic in how to help than the priests and especially bishops are, who are more concerned with punishing and judging people, and, apparently, watching people die and patting themselves on the back for not giving in and saving a life.

    • Lizzy

      The most ridiculous part of that situation was the crazy justifications on the part of the bishops afterward. He just kept reiterating that it’s better to think of solutions that save both the mother and the fetus. Great idea man, but that not always how the situation shakes down. There was no other solution. You cannot always save the pregnancy, but you can save one life. If your options are kill a fetus and save a women or kill both, why is killing both the superior choice?! Either way the all important fetus dies. Oh wait, maybe these are policies thought up by men in one of the most woman hating organizations on the planet.

  • plunderb

    That “our bodies are not our own” line makes me want to vomit. I do, in fact, believe that my body is my own. That is part of the reason I left the Catholic church. It’s one thing to freely give your body over to God or another person, but it’s monstrous to use force of law to coerce others do the same.

  • smrnda

    Given that somebody died who didn’t need to, Fleming’s attempt at appropriating Savita’s death as propaganda for the Christian belief that there is meaning to suffering is absolutely disgusting, particularly when he can make no safe assumptions about her particular religious or ethical beliefs. What if her beliefs were that it’s better to survive rather than die and become a glorious martyr?

    I do understand his Orwellian ‘mother and child with equal dignity’ deal – if they can’t save the fetus, the mother has to die to so they can make a clear demonstration that they consider the life of the fetus equally valid and couldn’t accept a world where both didn’t meet the same fate.

  • BradC

    FYI, your first link doesn’t appear to work (the one inside the quoted paragraph does).

    Yes, totally appalling.

  • Elin

    I am not an expert at catholism but a catholic told me that abortion is allowed in such a situation because if you cannot save both lives it is better to save one than lose both. Is this misinformation or correct catholic theology?

    • plunderb

      That is not what I was taught as a Catholic. We were taught that it is always completely wrong to take a life, even if it might result in a better outcome. The issue is direct killing (never, ever ok) vs. indirect killing (sometimes ok). This leads to some strange teachings; for example, if you have an ectopic pregnancy, Catholic teaching prevents you from aborting the (non-viable) embryo, but permits the removal of the entire fallopian tube (indirectly causing the death of the embryo and, incidentally, causing needless damage to your body).

      • plunderb

        I should note that this is not a belief common to all Catholics (it certainly was not my belief when I was still Catholic!) but is nevertheless an important strain of thought withing Catholic teachings on life issues.

    • abra1

      As a Catholic, I was explicitly taught this as gray. It was something along the lines that it is not clear that it is a grave sin but that the Church has recognized women who chose not to terminate a pregnancy under those circumstances. In other words, there is no categorical condemnation but it is clear what the Church understands is the more moral choice.

      I can’t tell you with any confidence whether this reflects the grayness of how the people I was educated by thought, Jesuits are a rebellious lot. Or, instead whether it is reflects an actual grayness, as I suspect it does because, despite the pronouncements, a Catholic understanding of morality is much more nuanced than the dogmatic pronouncement would lead one to believe.

      This makes is profoundly sad that, yet again, a legalistic approach to morality trumps compassion. For my years and years of Catholic education, the thing that has stuck with me is an explanation my dad gave — must have been about 4th grade because that was about when CCD really started to explicitly address moral development and he usually taught it — that the fault of the Pharisees was that they insisted on hewing to the letter of the law even, or especially, when it led them to neglect the spirit* of the law and turn their back on those in need. Jesus challenged us to the greatest 2 commandments even when it requires us to leave the safety of “following the rules” — that we need to understand the difference between good works and rule following.

      *Why it is necessary to understand the **why** of rules, even for children.

      • Steve

        We don’t need lessons in morality from a criminal syndicate of child rapists

      • Anat

        that the fault of the Pharisees was that they insisted on hewing to the letter of the law even, or especially, when it led them to neglect the spirit* of the law and turn their back on those in need.

        This is going to be a total derail, but since there are several here with a Jewish background, I would like to clarify that in Rabbinical thought the Pharisees are the heroes. The specific case where Jesus is contrasted with the Pharisees is about healing a blind person on Shabbat. There was no urgency to heal him that day rather than the following one, so to someone for whom the sanctity of Shabbat matters it was wrong to desecrate Shabbat for such a cause. In contrast, Shmaya and Avtalion (heads of the sanhedrin a few generations previously) dug out a man who was buried in snow on the rooftop of their academy on Shabbat. (The man turned out to be Hillel the Elder, their student, who couldn’t afford to pay tuition the previous day and got on the roof in order to eavesdrop on their lesson. Tuition arrangements were changed after that incident.)

        In modern times different streams of Judaism would vary in their ways of dealing with Torah laws, but that is because of differences on a meta level in their beliefs about what Torah is. But I felt the need to clarify that there was more to the Pharisees’ position than sticking to the letter of the law. There just wasn’t a good enough reason to deviate from it, under their value system.

      • abra1

        @Steve, I was simply clarifying that there is diversity of thought on this matter within the Church and, though no longer practicing, I don’t think that it is fair to paint the entire Church with the same brush because the crimes are of the hierarchy, not all of the faithful. I have rejected the authority of the hierarchy based on their actions and attitude about child sex abuse, status of women, treatment of LGBT individuals, etc. However, there are many, many laity and clergy in the trenches who are working on the inside to move the Church.

        I was not taught formally or informally morality by Cardinal Burke or Law — I was taught morality by people who grated their teeth when those men speak. Believe it or not, but most of the teaching is done by laity because there just aren’t enough clergy to do it all. I found it morally untenable to maintain ties to the Church but I respect the choice of those who wish to work from within to change it.

        @Anat, thank you for the additional information. I admittedly do not know enough about Jewish teachings to be able to speak to it and I did not intend to criticize it objectively but offer a guide for why there is/should be gray within Catholic teaching on this issue — from that understanding of the specific rebukes Jesus had for the Pharisees, compassion not the letter of the law should be the guide.

        In other words, I did not intend to imply that the Pharisees were “bad” but that their inclusion in the Gospels is used to illustrate our inclination to be legalistic when it comes to tough decisions and Christians are called to be compassionate rather than legalistic. Christians were let off the hook for almost all the rules (sacrificial meat, anyone?)… yet we can’t help but keep making new ones (sure, but only fish on Friday!). It was most certainly not my dad’s intention but that lesson played a big part in my pro-choice evolution.

    • Janet

      In fact, Catholic teachings would have allowed the mother to be saved if it was possible. (Here’s a link with a clarifying article: What we still don’t really know is why she died. There is so much anger, and so many articles declaring that she had blood poisoning because of the miscarriage, and so many articles stating that she would not have died had she received an abortion, but none of the investigations have been completed yet! Nonetheless, Catholic teaching allows that first you try to save the lives of both, but if the life of the baby is already doomed (as in this case) you save the mother.

      • Steve

        Except that it is standard operation procedure (no pun intended) in Catholic “hospitals” to wait for the mother to start dying before doing anything. Although doctors know perfectly well that they could and should act immediately. Catholics are all about following stupid rules to the letter, though there are more humane options with better outcomes for the mother and the same result for the fetus.

        There are also many documented cases where women with complications have been turned away entirely and put in ambulances or taxis to real hospitals. And even that only happened because the doctors had a minimum amount of conscience and realized that what they were doing was wrong.

  • Niemand

    If you are “pro-life” you are in favor of this sort of thing happening. Frequently.

  • Niemand

    Oddly enough, this story does not seem to be making the rounds on the Patheos Catholic blogs. Perhaps they don’t keep up with the news from Ireland.

    • Steve

      Those sycophants can’t have the church look bad

      • Liberated Liberal

        Actually, they’ve explained the silence very well: They are busy and have better things to do. I mean, I’m so glad they cleared that up because for a moment I thought they were being hypocrites.

  • smrnda

    In the US, this type of action might result in a lawsuit. I’m not sure about the legal situation in Ireland, but I’m hoping that her family can sue for damages.

  • mcbender

    Libby, I share your outrage. This kind of thing is absolutely appalling, and I hope there is some way to have the doctors who stood by punished for medical malpractice.

    I do, however, feel the need to make a nitpick here – you say that another woman in a similar situation “was only saved when another doctor with no moral scruples was finally called in”, and I really wish you would not use language in this way. Please do not give morality away to religion. The doctor who was called in in that case quite likely did have moral convictions of a secular kind, and for those reasons performed the procedure and saved the woman’s life. Let’s not discount that, please. “Lack of moral scruples” far more aptly describes those who are willing to let a woman die unnecessarily for the sake of their own personal ideological convictions.

    • Libby Anne

      Good point – I’ll change it. :-)

    • Steve

      The best way I’d describe those “doctors” is “moral cowards”. They hid behind an overly cautious legal interpretation instead of doing the morally correct thing and save the woman. There was no moral conundrum. They had the choice between losing the women and the fetus or losing the fetus. That’s not a choice at all.

      As noted above if they had performed an abortion, in all likelihood nothing would have happened to them. While it’s not explicitly legal it’s not illegal either given those circumstances. There were advisory opinions and medical guidelines in place that allowed it. But they wanted to be absolutely sure and put their own legal safety over someone else’s life.

  • Louise

    For Petticoat Philosopher or someone else in the know, how is an ectopic pregnancy handled in Ireland? If it is not caught in the earliest few weeks of the pregnancy there may well be a heartbeat detectable by ultrasound. Surely this situation has presented itself before? If an ectopic pregnancy is treated surgically why would this woman’s situation been any different? What a tragedy!

    • Niemand

      I’m not Irish and don’t know for sure how it would be handled, but have seen some Catholic “pro-life” people advocating waiting until the fallopian tube burst and killed the embryo before intervening. I think removal of the tube with embryo under the “double effect” doctrine is more typical, though.

    • Kacy

      I’ve never seen a pro-lifer advocating to wait until the fallopian tube burst. The fallobian tube is typically removed and viewed as “diseased.” Double Effect allows them to remove the “diseased” organ, with the dead fetus being an “unintended” consequence. The whole Double Effect idea is morally dubious at best. I discussed how double effect works with ectopic pregnancies, but how it couldn’t apply in Savita’s case. In other words, there is no out for pro-life Catholics on this one.

      • Niemand

        That’s an odd bit of sophism given that the fallopian tube is not necessarily diseased in an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. It can be-scarring in the tube is one reason a tubal pregnancy may occur-but sometimes the tube is completely normal.

        I should mention that the person who said wait until it bursts was a random person spouting off, not anyone with particular authority in the Catholic church. Nonetheless, the idea is out there.

      • lucrezaborgia

        Removing it is unnecessary though because there are chemicals that will abort the fetus that are way less invasive AND don’t halve your fertility.

    • OurSally

      Any Irish woman has the choice of hopping on the ferry to England, where abortion is available on demand (obviously you have to be healthy enough to travel). This is quite common practice, and probably the reason the Irish are not up in arms about the ban in their own country. A good fraction of abortions in England are not carried out on English women.

      Though a few years ago a very young rape victim was not allowed to leave the country in case she went to England for this purpose – if I remember rightly the abortion was still performed.

      • Niemand

        It’s hard to hop on a ferry when you’re miscarrying and dying of sepsis.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Also, not every woman in Ireland is Irish and this can have an effect. Asylum-seekers, for example, cannot leave the country so they’re up a creek if they need or want an abortion. And, from what I’m seeing here, there actually ARE a fair number getting “up in arms” about the ban and it seems like the general feeling is that Parliament is going to have to move on this issue soon.

      • Ms_Morlowe

        It’s actually the opposite case: abortions aren’t performed in Ireland, but the mother’s right to travel is absolute. I think you’re thinking of the X case in 1992, which is mentioned in Libby’s post, but this one is more recent, and maybe a bit clearer:

        Where a 17 year old girl who was pregnant with a non-viable fetus while in the care of the HSE wasn’t allowed to travel– she was eventually granted the right. The X case was where the parents of a 14 year old girl who had been raped by her neighbour went to the Gardaí to see if DNA from the fetus could be used as evidence in court, and the Gardaí took out an injunction to prevent them from travelling to England to get the abortion. That’s where the Supreme Court decision in contest came from– the ruling from that case was never legislated, and now we’re left with a big mess where everyone knows you can go to England, but no-one’s really sure of what you can do in Ireland.

        As an aside, going to England and getting an abortion there is really fecking expensive, and definitely not an option for everyone in the country. It’s definitely not a reason why the Irish aren’t up in arms about the ban on abortion– there are many reasons, but far more prominently, a) we’re still a Catholic and therefore rather conservative country– though that is currently changing with the under 30ish set, I know far more people of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations who’d be against legalising abortion than for, and they still make up the majority of the electorate; b) the government has been saying for YEARS that they’re going to actually legislate the X case, and we’re waiting for that to come into effect; c) while we’re doing that, the legislation is all over the shop, and no-one’s actually sure of what is or isn’t legal; d) I think a lot of campaigners have been focused on legalising contraceptives before abortion– the morning after pill/Plan B only became available over the counter last year, and there was a massive stink over that from conservative quarters. It’s hard to push for abortion to be legalised when something as simple as Plan B causes such controversy; e) I think, OurSally, that this is where your point comes in– those most likely to have the resources to become involved in political affairs like campaigning for abortion are also those most likely to be able to afford to travel to England.

        Sorry, got off on a real tangent there! But basically, they’re some of the reasons why the pro-life/choice groups aren’t more prominent in Ireland, and why there aren’t more people pushing for abortion to be legalised.

  • lucrezaborgia

    To me, this fits in with the larger issue of pregnant women being considered public property. It is a MAJOR problem for women who are pregnant and want to carry the fetus to term. Abortion is just one part of that puzzle.

    How often are pregnant women touched by strangers who think it is OK to rub their belly?

    How often are pregnant woman asked if they are married or not? (Yes, this happens!)

    How often are pregnant women given unsolicited advice in public?

    How often are pregnant women denied personal agency when it comes to their medical care?

    The answer most people give for all these issues? “Well, as long as you end up with a healthy baby, nothing else matters.”

    Um…yes, it DOES matter. I am TTC right now and it frightens me to tears that I will be considered public property once I am pregnant.

    • Amelia

      I’m half tempted to get myself a t-shirt made that says “no, this is NOT public property” over my ever-expanding bump.
      DH and I have agreed (thankfully) that my health and my right to life trump the baby, even to the very end of the pregnancy. Thankfully, I also have good friends (and an excellent midwife) who support this as well, which makes it much easier to stand by.
      Because personally? I believe the MOST important thing for a baby is for it to have a healthy mother, both physically and mentally, who can love it and nurture it to her fullest extent, rather than resenting it for its massive impact on her life.

      • lucrezaborgia

        I really hope I can find a midwife to take me on. I’m bipolar and on medication, therefore I am high-risk.

        I’ve been in and out of hospitals quite a bit in my life and am well aquainted with medical staff who think they are all-powerful beings who should be obeyed at all times. I was in the ICU for 2 weeks a few years ago and right before I was brought to the step-down room the nurses could not find a vein in my arm. My arm was a mass of brusing and I was well out of the danger zone so I refused to have an IV line. Then I was threatened with consequences on top of “well, we will have to call the doctor now”. I told them to go ahead and the look on their faces when they came back and said the doctor was fine with that was priceless. I can only imagine how much worse that attitude gets once a patient is pregnant.

    • Tracey

      “How often are pregnant woman asked if they are married or not? (Yes, this happens!)”

      The last month of my first pregnancy, my fingers had swollen enough that my wedding band was cutting off circulation to my finger, so I pried it off and put it in my jewelry box for safekeeping. It was quite an eye-opener to see the people who would look at my belly, then look at my ring finger, then give me the stink-eye.

    • Rosie

      Which is, I think, part of an even larger issue of WOMEN being seen as public property. Which is why “attractive” women often endure harassment on the public streets no matter what they wear or what they’re doing, and “unattractive” women endure derision in the same circumstances.

    • OurSally

      When I was pregnant people often put a hand on my stomach but I always found they were well-meaning, it’s saying “hello” somehow, and it wasn’t doing me any harm, even though it took some getting used to. I liked it if it kicked around a bit for them.

      If men asked what it felt like (I am a small person and my pregnancies looked huge) I told them I felt like the first crewman in Alien, which shocked them a bit.

      When I meet a pregnant friend (I would never do this to a stranger) I still feel the urge to put out a hand and touch, this must be some kind of human instinct. But I ask first.

      I wasn’t married then (this is Europe so no-one but mother-in-law commented on it) but we got spliced anyway 5 days before I popped, and the receptionist at the gynaecologist said with a giggle, “well it was about time”.

      • lucrezaborgia

        I have a severe anxiety response to people touching me. The only people I am OK with physical touch are small children and my husband. When I was a child, I basically told my parents that I didn’t want to be hugged anymore and no, I wasn’t molested.

  • Sgaile-beairt

    massive protests in ireland…twitter-organized flash shutdown of the streets surrounding the Dail (parliament) tonight in Savita’s name…

    • Kacy

      And they SHOULD protest. I’m glad to see that empathy and common sense win out among the Irish people.

    • Liberated Liberal

      I’m thrilled that people feel strongly enough to organize in this fashion! I’m am extremely introverted, so I can’t dare to judge, but I do hope that if we hear of something similar in the US we can rally in the same way.

  • Sgaile-beairt

    the police wldnt close the roads so the people did it themselves:

  • Twist

    I don’t even know what to say. The people who let this happen don’t deserve to call themselves doctors. Those who prioritised giving her doomed fetus an extra three days over saving her life should be facing jail terms. If there was any justice, they would at least be never practicing medicine again. Instead I’m sure the catholic church, the self-appointed arbiters of all that is good and moral, apprently (as if the constant child sex scandals weren’t enough), will be applauding them. If I ever wanted proof that religion causes people to do evil things, this is it.

    And if any forced-birthers out there want evidence of what restrictive abortion laws can lead to, look no further.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    This is simply outrageous and sad… I hope this makes some anti-abortion people get off their high horse.

    • Steve

      No, it won’t. There are the usual outrageous comments under the articles.

      • Jackie

        Hold up, I’m for anti-abortion, and I’m extremely beyond angry at what happened. I even live in Ireland. Not every pro-lifer here is happy or satisfied on being “moral” or following the law. Savita’s death was an injustice.

      • minnie

        Pro-lifers and catholics even get a thrill out of torturing raped little girls, little girl rape is pro-life. I was sexually abused as a little girl and these people remind me of my rapist, they have his mentality.

        Pro-lifer porn.
        “Church excommunicates mother of 9-year-old rape victim – but not accused rapist.”

        “A senior Vatican cleric has defended the Catholic Church’s decision to excommunicate the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old rape victim who had a life-saving abortion in Brazil.”

        “Police believe the girl was sexually assaulted for years by her stepfather, possibly since she was six. That she was four months pregnant with twins emerged only after she was taken to hospital complaining of severe stomach pains.”

  • Kacy

    You raise an excellent point. I didn’t think about the implication for conscience laws here in the US. Personal ideology should in no way interfere with a doctor’s duty to his or her patient, and that first duty is to do no harm. Savita’s story is so sad and morally reprehensible, and I’ve been amazed watching my pro-life Catholic friends jump through hoops to make sense of this. They’re so blinded by their sacred doctrines that they fail to see the horrible consequences it had for a fellow human being.

  • machintelligence

    AN INTERNATIONAL symposium on maternal healthcare in Dublin at the weekend has concluded that abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother.
    Eamon O’Dwyer, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynaecology at NUI Galway and a conference organiser, said its outcome would provide “clarity and confirmation” to doctors and legislators dealing with these issues.

    I think a formal retraction and apology are the least they could do.

    • Amelia

      “abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother.’
      Doctors have concluded this? WTF?

      • Libby Anne

        Yes, I just wrote about it in my next post. It was the doctors at the medical school attached to Savita’s hospital, actually.

  • sopotra

    I am Irish, and left Ireland because of the hypocrisy and double think of, particularly, the Medical Profession.
    If Savita had attended the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin I do not think that this tragedy would have happened.
    If the abortion was inevitable she would have had it completed – there was no chance of the foetus surviving.
    Obsession we have with women’s reproductive organs : in 1983 we had the Battle of the Fertilised Egg; and female reproductive anatomy was earnestly discussed – fertilisation, fallopian tubes, implantation – we became experts on double effect as well as biology.
    Requiescat in Pace Savita

    • Ms_Morlowe

      This tragedy could have happened anywhere in Ireland, including the Rotunda. This is, horrifyingly, not the first time this has happened in Ireland. Don’t blame the individual hospital for this: blame the nurses, the doctors, and the policy makers. But don’t blame this on University Hospital Galway alone and ignore that the same policy is in place in every other hospital in Ireland.

  • Christine

    And the really ironic thing? In killing Savita, those pro-life doctors have also snuffed out all the other potential lives she could have borne. How on earth do they say they are “pro-life?”

    • Lana

      lol good point

    • Liberated Liberal

      Especially considering how much they revere “potential.” Extraordinarily ironic.

  • Lana

    The thing is, she was having a miscarriage and being poisoned. In this case, it wasn’t even choosing between the life of the mother or life of the child (I think if one is going to die, then it should be the mother’s choice, but nonetheless, in this case, the baby couldn’t live anyway, so that’s a mute question); it was actually choosing between save one, or both die. I don’t understand how any Christian could think its better for both to die.

    • machintelligence

      You obviously don’t use the same sin calculus that they do. In their view letting two people die is more moral than “killing” one who would die in any case to save the other. I wonder how they would do in the “trolley” problem — oh, wait — that only involves adults. Or to test the other dimension, what if pulling the lever switched the trolley from a track where it would kill a man to one where it would kill a woman. I think I need to see what other scenarios have been tested using the trolley problem…

      • Rosie

        For the doctors who did this, it’s not about reducing harm or suffering in the world, it’s about keeping their spiritual hands clean according to the laws handed down by their deity or church hierarchy. What’s that quote about “for good people to do bad things, that takes religion”? I think it applies in this case.

      • Jayn

        The trolley problem puts me in mind of the Mass Effect games, which kind of shows how similar ideas are present in mainstream thought as well. In the ME games, there’s no good-evil axis like some games have (regardless of what you do you’re the hero), but instead they have paragon and renegade options. ‘Paragon’ choices usually involve taking the moral high ground, and often protecting lives. ‘Renegade’ options usually call for a quicker and/or safer resolution of the situation (the more aggressive nature of those choices influences your appearance in the second game, but not the first or–to my knowledge–third). Being a renegade isn’t exactly evil, but ‘greater good’ calculations usually fall under that heading.

        There is, however, one situation in which you are not given a choice, which is very analogous to the Savita case. Successfully completing the mission involves actively causing, not passively allowing, the deaths of thousands of people. However doing so will delay a threat to the entire galaxy that you’re not ready for. The people you kill are already first in line of the threat, and are pretty much already doomed, but killing them gives everyone else more time to prepare and be ready, and thus a better chance of survival. It’s the only point in the series when saving lives isn’t really on the table, and the only major point where you’re denied that choice. (Technically you could opt not to kill them, but it results in a game over.)

      • Steve

        I think if you don’t cure the scars in ME2 (which I always did because it just looks silly), you can again buy the medbay upgrade in ME3 to get rid of them.

  • Ruth

    Heretics were burned at the stake because canon law forbid the shedding of blood. The Church spends too much time debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  • Sheila Crosby

    According to some of the versions I’ve heard, they didn’t just refuse to abort the dying foetus, they also refused strong antibiotics – the sort that might have prevented the infection or at least slowed it down – and even strong pain killers because that would harm the foetus which was dying anyway.

    Words fail me.

    • Niemand

      The doctors involved weren’t decent people trapped in an unjust system. They were people who agreed with the system and would rather let a woman die than cure her when curing her meant going against their ideology. They killed her to soothe their egos.

  • chervil

    As Margaret Atwood put it so eloquently:

    “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

  • ashley

    “For those who view life through the lens of their Christian faith, our bodies are sacred”
    he means men’s bodies. men’s bodies are sacred, women’s bodies are sacred vessels.

  • Seamus Breathnach

    I don’t think outsiders know how rapacious the Irish Catholic Church is… James Joyce saw them as ‘vermin’ who destroyed everything that was healthy and natural. Of course, no one even mentions Joyce in Ireland lest they be associated with his anti-Catholic sentiments. It is only when Irishmen escape to London or Toronto that they can joke about the Leviathon they left behind. Such is the power of the Catholic Church that even after the most damning murderous evidence of the Galway Hospital, the bishops still maintain that there are no circumstances under which the Irish legislature should legislate to protect the lives of women by way of abortion. The Church, as usual, has divided the country (and so many others) to serve its own archaic ends. The Irish Parliament, now charged after ignoring the excellent Supreme Court case on abortion, are in such a tizzy that it is reckoned that some six doctors may be required in the case of a suicidal application for abortion. It’s as if we cannot proceed without institution a new inquisition every time we try to move to a common-sence secular solution to what is invariably a Holy Roman problem. It is reminiscent of the totalitarian stance taken by the church in 1302, when the Bull Unam Sanctam declared the church’s absolute and totalitarian authority over all humanity that would presume to enter Heaven without its permission. Poor Cromwell! What can one do with people who allow themselves to be so dominated, time after time after time. Its worse than Tibet, where only monks jibberjabber and no women, children or industry of a secular nature is allowed to appear above the horizon…