You may have heard about the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in Galway, Ireland on October 28th due to a preventable infection that resulted from a protracted miscarriage.
I’m at work now, so I’ll give you a quick round-up.
The most thorough coverage is from Michael Nugent.
Most of the links I just posted are from non-theist blogs, but even the post at the site dedicated to reproductive health issues frames the case as a matter of religious oppression.
The reason for that emphasis is in the answer Savita and her husband received from the hospital staff when they requested a medical termination of the non-viable pregnancy: “This is a Catholic country.”
That is not a scientifically or medically meaningful explanation. Mrs. Halappanavar was denied life-saving care because of laws based on Catholic beliefs. The fact that Savita was not Catholic did not save her from dying under Catholic rules. Of course, we all expect someone to follow the laws of the country in which they’ve decided to live. The doctors at University Hospital would not have escaped prosecution for providing an abortion simply because their patient was of a different religion than the majority of the country. That there is the problem: doctors in Ireland who care for pregnant women have to fear prosecution if they perform abortions, even to save their patients’ lives. If the law only makes sense from within a religious framework, then it is effectively forcing other people to live within someone else’s religion.
When those religion-based laws result in easily preventable deaths, one might even call it a violation of human rights. Savita could have recovered, gotten on with her life and had more babies. Instead, she was left to die of septicemia after days of horrible pain because “this is a Catholic country.”