Congratulations, Ireland! You’re fabulous and amazing!

Ireland’s acting like the setting of a dystopian novel.

This is the sort of thing that happens when a suicidal woman requests an abortion in Ireland.

The poor girl must have been devastated. She was certainly traumatised enough to go on hunger and fluid strike. The HSE went to the High Court to get a care order to prevent her from starving herself. Eventually, she surrendered and allowed the baby to be delivered by Caesarean section sometime between 23 and 25 weeks.

She did what the law asked of her: presented herself to a panel of three psychiatrists and told them about her suicidal ideation. The psychiatrists agreed that she was a suicide risk and should be allowed a termination, but the obstetrician stepped in and insisted that the pregnancy was far along enough for a live delivery and therefore MUST have a live delivery.

She tried starving herself. No, she wasn’t allowed to starve; the state took her in and forced her not to starve or dehydrate. As long as she was pregnant, she did not have permission to die.

This is only a couple of steps removed from the setting of a dystopian novel I was working on (now shelved indefinitely) around the same time as beginning my urban fantasy work; in present-day Ireland, they only keep her hooked up for a short time, and they don’t appear to be forcing psychotropic drugs on her, but still, this is a very Handmaid’s Tale way to treat a young woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant.

Something tells me they don’t roll out the protective orders for suicidal people who aren’t pregnant. Now that the baby is out, there’s nothing stopping her from killing herself.

Delivery at 25 weeks is nearly the bare minimum required for a fetus to survive delivery. There’s a reason why nearly all parents with wanted pregnancies keep them going closer to 40 weeks if at all possible. Staying alive after such a premature birth is doable, but it’s not healthy.

The physical effects (her mental health is clearly irrelevant as far as the state is concerned) of Cesarean section are far from trivial, especially compared to abortion. She’s been forced into a major operation, with permanent effects, in order to deliver an extremely premature infant whom she did not want to conceive in the first place and will not raise.

I do understand where the Irish government is coming from, in handling such cases this way. If one pregnant woman can say she’s suicidal and get a safe abortion in an Irish hospital, it won’t be long until ALL women with unwanted pregnancies can get terminations just by claiming to have suicidal thoughts. Before you know it, the Republic of Ireland will be known as a country where any woman can get a pregnancy terminated legally by a qualified doctor. Everyone knows Ireland is supposed to outsource their abortion care to Great Britain. Anything less is a travesty. The woman in this case was unable to travel to the UK for a legal abortion. I’m seeing from other sources that she is not an Irish national, so it’s probably an immigration concern that kept her from making the trip. It’s the most disadvantaged and desperate women who can be forced to keep their pregnancies to the point of just barely viability, and who can be taken into state custody to keep from starving themselves. Those with more control over their life circumstances can exercise their right to reproductive freedom in other countries.

But that said, how far does it have to go? How many more women have to go on hunger strike, or successfully kill themselves, before the Irish government decides that allowing legal abortion to happen within its own borders would not be the worst thing ever? How many women will they incarcerate and force into major abdominal surgery for the sake of barely viable micro-preemies before they start re-examining their priorities?

Irish Bishops Wrong About Everything

The Catholic bishops of Ireland have released a statement regarding the death of Savita Halappanavar, and it makes about as much sense as we’ve come to expect from the organization that created and maintained the Magdalene Laundries. Here you can read it in full. More prominent bloggers have already given their responses to the “moral” positioning and “medical” information contained therein, and on those fronts, I’m just nodding along with them.

Dr. Jen Gunter attempts to interpret the bishops’ medical opinions.

PZ Myers wants to know: what makes those bishops think we want to hear anything they have to say?

The part that I want to address is this one:

Continue reading

Savita’s death was not a coincidence.

In today’s (justified) outrage over the medical neglect and death of Savita Halappanavar, there is a little talking point going around that the cause of Savita’s death was a separate issue from denial of abortion care. The question has become prevalent enough that Jodi Jacobson tackled it today at RHRC. An example of the idea is this tweet, which says:

septicemia seems to have been the killer of poor #savita not the baby or lack of termination. lack of treatment seems to be the issue

If development of septicemia is unrelated to pregnancy or premature/protracted conclusion thereof, this idea makes sense.

So, what was it that actually happened to Savita?

Continue reading

Remember Savita

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.

PZ Myers: It’s time to abort the Catholic Church.

Biodork: Savita Halappanavar’s death

A Million Gods: Faith and Begorrah

RH Reality Check: We are all Savita Halappanavar.

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.”


Ireland will be having none of this bullshit, either.

Ophelia Benson shows us that Vatican officials have seen the Cloyne report and are self-aware as ever:

In its response, the Vatican will point out the  weakness of Irish state monitoring of child abuse. And it will insist that the Taoiseach’s comments failed to recognise the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI to ensure bishops comply with national laws.

The Government will also be told that the seal of the confession is

Are we quite sure we’re not reading an article at The Onion?

The claims are, roughly translated:

1. “You didn’t work hard enough to stop us!”

2. “How dare you criticize the Pope!”

3. “We don’t have to tell you NOTHIN’.”

I suppose the Catholic hierarchy’s logic is that as long as they insist they did nothing wrong, the secular world will have no case against them.

I expect the Taoiseach’s response to this will be a classier version of: “Don’t piss on my leg, fuckers.”

Ireland is having none of the Vatican’s bullshit

Sullivan shares the news of the Cloyne report, in which Prime Minister Enda Kenny lays down the law:

The revelations of the Cloyne report have brought the Government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture. It’s fair to say that after the Ryan and Murphy reports Ireland is, perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children. But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order. Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic . . . as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . the narcissism . . . that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.”

Sullivan concludes:

The church in Ireland is now dying, thanks to the wickedness and corruption that endures in Benedict’s authoritarian church. It deserves to die as an institution, because it has betrayed, indeed attacked, the very Gospels it is supposed to uphold.

Ophelia Benson brings us the news and cheers on the elected officials who are now breathing fire at the Catholic hierarchy. Patrick O’Malley weighs in.


Abortion in Ireland: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Stephanie Lord puts the smackdown on Irish anti-choicers:

Annually for the past nine years, the UK Department of Health have issued statistics showing a decline in the numbers of women giving Irish addresses when accessing abortion services in Britain . The 2010 figures, released earlier this week, revealed that 4,402 women gave Irish addresses to British clinics when they accessed abortion services – 12 women for every day that year. Doctor Stephanie O’Keeffe, the Acting Director of Ireland’s Crisis Pregnancy Program, praised the figures, saying that “The numbers are actually very low by international standards. We have been bucking the trend compared to other countries, where abortion numbers and rates have been increasing.” In fact, the 2010 figure represents a drop of just 20 on the previous year – a decline of 0.5%. This is hardly remarkable given the scale of the numbers and considering the level of emigration out of Ireland since the onset of the recession; it’s very possible that were it not for emigration the figure could be much higher. Actually, were it not for the drastic drop in income in Ireland, the figures may have been higher again. Travelling outside of the country to get an abortion is not something that can be done on the cheap.

Yeah, that’s the risk in tracking public health trends in terms of raw numbers, rather than as percentages of population. You’re likely to get schooled.

The issuing of the figures heralds the annual gloating from the anti-choice movement who believe that it shows a reduction in the number of Irish women having abortions. Of course, it demonstrates nothing of the sort. The figures are in no way an adequate reflection of the actual number of women having abortions. Those collected by the UK Department of Health do not include the numbers of Irish women who give false British addresses in order to protect their anonymity, or those who travel further afield to access abortion services. Neither do they include the number of women who procure the abortion pill by purchasing it over the internet (in 2010, a Choice Ireland Freedom of Information request revealed that Irish Customs authorities had seized 1,216 packs of abortion pills the previous year which had been ordered online), or from shops where, if you know the right people, you can buy it easily over the counter. Furthermore, the figures do not indicate the number of women who, in the absence of any other choice, opt for backstreet abortions. The idea that the number of women travelling to Britain for abortions is the sum total of Irish women actually having abortions would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. The reality of the situation for women in Ireland is much more disturbing.

Given that Ireland’s policy on induced abortion is that it’s fine to have one if you can afford a quick trip to Great Britain, but no, you can’t do it in Ireland, it really shouldn’t be surprising that the Irish authorities have such shoddy numbers on the numbers of women terminating their pregnancies. With the current status quo, the only way the authorities have to count Irish women seeking abortions is to count up the number of Irish addresses given at UK health facilities.

With that in mind, the ways for Irish women to have induced abortions are as follows:

  • Go to Great Britain and give an Irish address.
  • Go to Great Britain and give a British address.
  • Order pills online.
  • Go to a shop and ask the right person to get you the pills over the counter.
  • Find some shady character to sort you out and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, there are increasing numbers of people moving out of Ireland due to the crappy economy, and those who stay tend to be losing income, which means far fewer Irish people who can afford to take a few days off work and take the boat to England. With all that going on, Dr. O’Keeffe is all pleased to see a 0.5% drop in the absolute number of women—not as a percentage of resident Irish population, and not controlling for income level—using the most expensive and transparent option for abortion services. Really, Dr. O’Keeffe? Really?

They would probably have much more reliable numbers on abortion rates if they…made it legal for women to have abortions in Ireland. It’s so much easier to keep track of people doing stuff that they don’t need to hide from the law.

What part of “endangers the life of the mother” does Ireland not understand?

The European Court of Human Rights has now demanded that the Irish government answer exactly that question regarding their abortion policies.

The law says that abortion is illegal in nearly all circumstances, the exception being where necessary to save the woman’s life. Problem is that the government’s never been very clear about what conditions meet the criterion of “danger to the pregnant woman’s life.”

Where to begin with this story?

Continue reading

Ireland makes progress while Real America throws tantrum

From the Irish Times:

Under the terms of the Bill, marriage-like benefits will be extended to gay and lesbian couples across a range of areas such as property, social welfare, succession, maintenance, pensions and tax.

Once the Civil Partnership legislation is fully enacted and implemented, gay and lesbian couples will be able to register their relationship before a registrar, as long as the partners are over 18 and not involved in any other unions.

Couples will be required to provide registrars with three months’ notice of a planned civil partnership, as is the case with civil or religious weddings. Any registrars who refuse to officiate may be prosecuted.

I can’t wait to hear what the Catholic hierarchy has to say about this.

Yay for Ireland!