[NB: More people than just cis women need and want access to abortion care.]
so important. Abortion access is related to violence prevention, mental health, and economic justice. This is why we need to remember to have an intersectional approach and remember when we deny people the right to control over their bodies, the consequences in their lives reverberate far and wide.
Some background on the Irish legal/political anti-choice clusterfuck that resulted in the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar:
…Chief amongst the social crises of 1992 was the X-case. A fourteen year-old girl, pregnant as the result of rape by a neighbor, sought to leave the country to have an abortion in England, as thousands of Irish women did and still do. Her parents asked the police whether it would be possible to collect any DNA evidence during this process, which brought the matter to the Attorney General’s attention. He sought, and was granted, a court injunction preventing her from traveling for the abortion under Article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution, which had been passed in 1983 as the “Pro-Life amendment” and which prohibited abortion in Ireland. The resulting constitutional crisis saw the Supreme Court issue a hasty ruling permitting the girl to travel, but under a strained interpretation of the law. So in November of 1992 the Government introduced three new amendments meant to clarify things. The result was that things reverted much to the status quo ante, which essentially allowed Ireland to export its abortion problem to the United Kingdom while leaving it unclear what doctors facing a medical emergency during pregnancy were in a position to do.
So the X Case ruling established that a woman in Ireland is legally entitled to an abortion when it’s necessary to save her life. But Ireland failed to implement the court ruling into actual legislation, which means doctors are reluctant to make the medically and ethically correct decision in the case of an emergency for fear of breaking the 1983 anti-abortion law.
One of the most horrible things about a horrible case is that anti-choice Catholics have forced their religious beliefs on people who aren’t even Catholic, like Savita. When informed by hospital staff that they wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy because “[Ireland] is a Catholic country”, Savita reportedly responded, “I am neither Irish nor Catholic.”
It’s nearly 2013—Ireland has to decide: is it a modern democracy that protects the life and rights of all of its people? Or is it a theocracy run by bishops and religious zealots?
And for anyone who has not seen it, full details in the Galway ProChoice Statment:
For Release: Woman Dies in UCHG after Being Denied a Life-Saving Abortion
On Sunday the 28th of October, Savita Praveen died at UCHG after being denied a termination which would most likely have saved her life. She was 31 years old, married for four years and hoping to start a family.
If legislation is not introduced immediately, more women will die. Under the X Case ruling, women in Ireland are legally entitled to an abortion when it is necessary to save their life. However, legislation has never been passed to reflect this. It is the failure of successive governments to do so that led to Savita’s death.
Savita was first admitted to the hospital on October 21st complaining of severe back pain. Her doctor initially told her that she would be fine, but she refused to go home. It became clear that her waters had broken, and she was having a miscarriage (spontaneous abortion). She was told that the foetus had no chance of survival, and it would all be over within a few hours.
However, her condition did not take its expected course, and the foetus remained inside her body. Although it was evident that it could not survive, a foetal heartbeat was detected. For this reason her repeated requests to remove the foetus were denied. By Tuesday it was clear that her condition was deteriorating. She had developed a fever, and collapsed when attempting to walk. The cervix had now been fully open for nearly 72 hours, creating a danger of infection comparable to an untreated open head wound. She developed septicaemia.
Despite this, the foetus was not removed until Wednesday afternoon, after the foetal heartbeat had stopped. Immediately after the procedure she was taken to the high dependency unit. Her condition never improved. She died at 1.09am on Sunday the 28th of October.
Had the foetus been removed when it became clear that it could not survive, her cervix would have been closed and her chance of infection dramatically reduced. Leaving a woman’s cervix open constitutes a clear risk to her life. What is unclear is how doctors are expected to act in this situation.
Rachel Donnelly, Galway Pro-Choice spokesperson stated:
“This was an obstetric emergency which should have been dealt with in a routine manner. Yet Irish doctors are restrained from making obvious medical decisions by a fear of potentially severe consequences. As the European Court of Human Rights ruled, as long as the 1861 Act remains in place, alongside a complete political unwillingness to touch the issue, pregnant women will continue to be unsafe in this country.”
Sarah McCarthy, Galway Pro-Choice member said:
“Galway Pro-Choice believes that Ireland must legislate for freely available abortion for all women. Deaths like Savita’s are the most severe consequence of the criminalisation of abortion, yet it has countless adverse effects. We must reflect long and hard on the implications of Savita’s tragic and untimely passing, and we must act to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.”
For more information please contact Galway Pro-Choice on 087 706 0715 or Sarah McCarthy on 085 7477 907
I was just hoping to get more info from you about abortion among enslaved African women in the Americas since you said you wrote about it before. Thanks!
In short, enslaved women of african descent retained and passed down a knowledge of herbal abortifacients. They used this knowledge to induce their own miscarriages in a purposeful attempt to undermine the institution of slavery—an institution that required their reproductive capabilities to sustain itself.
The enslaved women on some plantations were so successful in systematically inducing miscarriages that decades could pass with no pregnancies being carried to term. White slavers became so distressed that they would hire doctors to come investigate. Here’s a snippet of one account:
He kept between four and six slave women of “the proper age to breed” for twenty-five years and “only two children had been born on the place at full term.” The white sold teh suspect couple but that did not end the frequent abortion. Neither did the purchase of new slaves. Every new conception was aborted by the fourth month…
The revelation clearly sugggests that the couple taught other slave to prepare the herbal medicine for an abortion. This transfer of knowledge was culturally traditional. (x)
Oh, and you can guess who the white misses came running to when they had an unwanted pregnancy…
Here’s a couple of other resources if you’re lookin to learn more:
- Bush, Barbara. “Towards Emancipation: Slave Women and Resistance to Coercive Labor Regimes in the British Caribbean,” In Resistance ed. Gary Okihiro. Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1987: 117-127.
- Morgan, JH. An essay on the production of abortion among our Negro population. Nashville Journal of Medicine & Surgery, 1860 Aug (19)117-8
*Made rebloggable by request. **Original Post
My spouse works in phlebotomy.
As part of an ice-breaker while he preps the tourniquet, tubes and needle, he casually asks why his patients are there. Obviously it doesn’t require an answer or anything, because that’d be invasive as hell, but often it helps alleviate patient tension if they start talking about something, and the elephant in the room makes for an easy jumping block. People trust medical workers.
“I’m getting an abortion,” one young woman he saw today said. Not the first, not the last.
But she went on to describe her situation. It wasn’t what she wanted; who knows how it happened—brief lapse of judgment, failure of contraception, tampering with contraception, marital rape, whatever—but the point was, she wasn’t ready. She decided to abort, even though her husband tried to convince her otherwise.
He asked for a divorce.
Now she’s in a race to get the procedure done as fast as possible, because he intends to fight for custody of the unborn child. He wants to legally force her to carry that fetus she doesn’t want to term and then take the resulting baby from her.
When my spouse told me about this, his voice shook.
Seriously, this is happening. It’s happening right now.
When Margaret Atwood was asked to define the genre for “A Handmaid’s Tale”, she refused to call it scifi because every single thing in the book has not only happened already but is still happening now. This post gives me that feeling.
Mississippi voters will be allowed to decide on a ballot measure that defines “personhood” from the moment of fertilization, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last week. The measure could potentially outlaw abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research across the state.
Abortion-rights advocates say they worry that the language of the initiative is so broad and vague that its effects could go far beyond outlawing abortion. The measure could be interpreted to outlaw the birth control pill, for instance, because the pill can sometimes prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. They also say the measure could outlaw in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and emergency contraception for rape victims, as well as discourage doctors from performing a lifesaving miscarriage treatment when a woman is suffering from potentially-fatal pregnancy complications.