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20 years of inaction on abortion access - now a tragedy

category ireland / britain | gender | feature author Friday November 16, 2012 23:11author by Workers Solidarity Movement - WSM Report this post to the editors

MARCH ON SATURDAY FROM PARNELL SQUARE AT 4.00 pm

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There are some stories that are hard to cover - the death of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant women, from septicemia whose life might have been saved if an abortion was not delayed is a hard as they come. According to the Irish Times Praveen Halappanavar, the husband of Savita said she had asked for a termination several times over a three day period only to be told "this is a catholic country."

All the ruling parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Greens and the Labour party - have prevaricated, delayed, avoided and ignored the issue. This has led to two further court cases where girls in care had to go to the courts in order to be allowed to travel to another country. It has led to court cases over ownership of eggs used in IVF. It has, no doubt, led to the forced pregnancies of immigrant women who cannot travel. It has led to women ordering abortion drugs over the Internet. It has forced women to travel under stressful conditions at great expense to other countries, including women who are carrying foetuses who will not survive birth. And now the delay in carrying out a termination has led to the death of a women. Whether it’s due to cowardice or callousness, all the ruling parties have shown little concern for the misery they inflict on women's lives.


20 years of inaction on abortion access - now a tragedy


There are some stories that are hard to cover - the death of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant women, from septicemia whose life might have been saved if an abortion was not delayed is a hard as they come. According to the Irish Times Praveen Halappanavar, the husband of Savita said she had asked for a termination several times over a three day period only to be told "this is a catholic country."

For years we were aware that the failure of successive governments to legislate could result in a tragedy but when the first reports started to circulate that this had happened we were horrified. How did we come to this point?

One of our members, Aileen O' Carroll, whose political work since she was a teenager has been dominated by the hypocrisy around abortion in Ireland talked to us about how this affected her.

"I remember when I was 13 trying to work out my view on abortion. Abortion was in the news, a pro-life referendum had just been passed. Most of my friends’ mothers had campaigned on the ‘pro-life’ side. Abortion was in the classrooms. I remember a teacher, walking between our desks, saying 'abortion, abortion', rolling the rrrs, making the word stretch. "Aborrrrrrtion - even the word is ugly". I remember sitting there, too afraid to question.

I remember watching an English woman being grilled on the “Late Late Show” by Gay Byrne about her abortion. She said "I had a back-street abortion when I was not quite 21 years old. I had it for various and several personal reasons. I was a single woman. I had very little money." That interview influenced me more than anything else. I decided that while I would never have an abortion myself, I wouldn't try to stop anyone else having one. I wouldn't make a decision about the circumstances of another woman's pregnancy. Though I didn't know it at the time, despite being influenced by the catholic world I lived in, I supported a woman's right to choose."

Fast forward thirty years and we are in the tragic situation of today's news. A situation brought about through hypocrisy and inaction, through politicians sacrificing the rights of women on the alter of the next election. Although the X-case court judgement and three referendums allowed for abortion under restricted circumstances, no laws have been drafted which would allow hospitals to carry out those abortions. The courts and the people have already spoken and said that where there is a risk to the life of the mother, including the risk of suicide, women should be able to obtain abortions in Ireland. Every party except Sinn Fein and the ULA have been in power and every party has refused to legislate, forever putting the issue off to expert groups.

Savita died in a Galway hopital. According to a press release from Galway Pro-Choice

"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."

Cowardice or callousness?

All the ruling parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Greens and the Labour party - have prevaricated, delayed, avoided and ignored the issue. This has led to two further court cases where girls in care had to go to the courts in order to be allowed to travel to another country. It has led to court cases over ownership of eggs used in IVF. It has, no doubt, led to the forced pregnancies of immigrant women who cannot travel. It has led to women ordering abortion drugs over the Internet. It has forced women to travel under stressful conditions at great expense to other countries, including women who are carrying foetuses who will not survive birth. And now the delay in carrying out a termination has led to the death of a women. Whether it’s due to cowardice or callousness, all the ruling parties have shown little concern for the misery they inflict on women's lives.

Perhaps twenty years ago implementation of the X-case judgement would have been a step in the right direction. Not now, not anymore. The X-case judgement is not a right to choose. 13 women travel each day from Ireland for a foreign abortion in another country. Those numbers won't change very much if the X-case is written into law. Most pregnancies don't threaten the life of the mother, most women aren't suicidal when pregnant. This is why we need to be clear in saying, the X-case is not enough. It is not up to us to say who can have an abortion and who can't, who will be forced to remain pregnant and who won't, who will be forced to travel and who won't. If we believe that women faced with a crisis pregnancy are the best people to decide, then we have to support a woman's right to choose, we have to say, the X-case is not enough.

As this tragic news emerged tonight demonstrations were being called by a range of pro-choice organisations and networks. There will be a picket of the Dail tomorrow after work called by the ULA and a march on Saturday at 4pm from Parnell Square. We hope to see you there.


MARCH ON SATURDAY FROM PARNELL SQUARE AT 4pm

March to protest the horrific state of affairs as it stands in Ireland, where Savita Halappanavar in the year 2012 in an Irish hospital died suffering and in pain after being denied an abortion she and her husband repeatedly requested.

PDF of leaflet advertising Saturday's march
PDF poster advertising Saturdays march


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Thu 18 Dec, 18:30

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sorrymigrantx.jpg imageIreland - Migrant X refused an abortion and forced to have a C-section 21:31 Thu 21 Aug by Andrew 0 comments

This is as complete a story about what happened to 'Migrant X' that we are aware of.  Migrant X is a young migrant women who it emerged was refused an abortion by the Irish state despite apparently meeting the grounds of the X-case legislation and instead forced to carry the pregnancy and agree to a C-section.  The pregnanacy itself was the result of rape, Migrant X attempted suicide after being refused the abortion and later went on a hunger and thirst strike.  Once what had happened to her became known there were sizeable pro-choice solidarity demonstrations called across Ireland and at Irish embassies overseas.   We have been given information that the migrant woman at the centre of the current forced pregnancy was 'committed' to a psychiatric hospital following her initial request for termination. It’s already known that the initial request was made when she was 8 weeks pregnant.  It was this crucial period in which she was being held incommunicado which led directly to the Caesarian option being possible to impose as an ‘alternative’ to allowing her to access the abortion she had asked for.

ivoteprolife.jpg imagePoor turnout in Ireland for Vigil for 'Life' despite massive spending 03:18 Wed 23 Jan by andrew 0 comments

Saturday in Dublin saw another desperate attempt by the anti-choice coalition to prevent legislation coming to the Dail (Irish parliament) to allow abortion where a women's life is under threat. Despite months of preparation, a spend that must have ran close to a million euro, and the parish priest at every mass in the country telling catholics they should attend, less that 15,000 turned up. Compared to the 150,000 women who have had to travel to obtain abortions in the last ecades this amounts to almost nothing, a handful of bigots bussed in from all over the country. [Italiano]

choice12womenday.jpg image20 years on X case to finally be legislated 17:40 Wed 19 Dec by Andrew Flood 0 comments

This afternoon the government had finally confirmed that it is to legislate for abortion access under the conditions of the X-case. While we can welcome the failure of the anti-choice movement to stop this announcement, despite frantically spending a quarter of a million dollars euro in ten days, this is so little so late that it is almost meaningless.

dailgateblockade.jpg imageIrish parliament blockaded by 100s after 3rd refusal in 6 months to legislate for X-case 22:59 Fri 30 Nov by andrew 0 comments

Last night saw hundreds of pro-choice activists blockade the gates of the Dáil after TD's once more refused to pass X-case legislation. Twenty years after the X-case and one month after the death of Savita Halappanavar women in Ireland were told once more that the politicians had not had enough time. The political parties, in particular the Labour Party, were once more engaged in a cynical game of playing politics - a game that leaves pregnant women at continued risk in Irish hospitals.

textCountering the Irish "Pro-Life" Rally - Pro-Choice Counter Demonstration 19:50 Thu 07 Jul by Cian Lynch 0 comments

WSM and other pro-choice activists took place in a counter demonstration to the “Rally for Life” which took place in Dublin on Sunday 3 July 2011. The anti-abortion rally was organised by Youth Defence (including “The Life Institute”(previously Mother & Campaign – an outgrowth of Youth Defense) and Belfast Based "Precious Life". Approximately 2,000 people seem to have attended. The pro-choice counter demonstration, organised at short notice was still attended by around 300 people. Many attending the anti-abortion rally came from all over Ireland and even included a small group of migrants from the Philippines. There were some tense exchanges between pro-choice campaigners and anti-abortion marchers.

40perweekleaveforabortion.jpg imageNI Women sold out by Labour on equal access to abortion 21:22 Tue 02 Dec by Eve Campbell 0 comments

The hopes of women living in Northen Ireland for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act were dashed when an amendment to extend the act brought before Westminster on 22nd October was not debated because of a procedural motion put by Harriet Harman, leader of the House of Commons and the Minister for Women and supported by many New Labour ‘feminist’ MPs

The Rogue Agency Displays its True Colours (after the demo they take their anti-choice banners down) imageShut Down Rogue Pregnancy Counselling Agency 23:48 Sun 22 Apr by pro-choice activist 0 comments

Advertised as a pregnancy counselling agency, it subjects women in crisis
pregnancies to psychological manipulation, misleading and deliberately lying
about pregnancy and abortion services to prevent women from travelling for
abortion services. The lies they tell clients are designed to force women to
feel guilt and shame for even considering abortion as an option.

Answering difficult questions early on a Saturday morning imageTalking about Sexual Violence 19:00 Thu 14 Sep by Sovietpop and others 0 comments

Report from a WSM member on a women's only day-school on sexual violence recently held in Ireland.

textCork Queer Pride 2005: What are we Proud of? & who can we rely on? 23:38 Tue 02 Aug by CorkQueer 0 comments

So what are exactly are we proud of? Is it just that we are attracted to a particular gender or genders? Or, are we proud of our courageous history of struggles as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered/ LGBT/ Queer people for our rights, and against bigotry, oppression and hatred?

textInternational Women's Day 19:16 Fri 27 May by Tobie 0 comments

This action was inspired by national women's days in the States during the women's suffrage and trade union movement that had been organised by socialist women including the Irish American Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The types of actions and demands on IWD have varied over the years, including a massive strike action that fuelled the Russian revolution in February 1917.

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imageAnti-choice extremists defeated in Ireland but new abortion legislation is worthless Jul 15 by Andrew Flood 0 comments

Despite spending in the region of a million euro and getting the backing of the catholic church its now clear that the anti-choice extremists of Youth Defence & the Pro Life Campaign were resoundingly defeated when the Dail finally voted though legislation implementing the X-Case judgment of 21 years ago. This time last year they were confident that they already had enough Fine Gael TD's on board to block the required legislation but they reckoned against the wave of public anger that followed the death of Savita Halappanavar after she was denied a potentially life saving abortion in a Galway hospital.

imageIreland: Total ban on gay men's blood donation is no longer justifiable Jun 29 by Glykosymoritis 2 comments

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imageA significant but minor step for the pro-choice movement Dec 21 by Andrew 0 comments

Last Thursday the European Court of Human Rights found that the Irish government had violated the rights of a woman living in Ireland who was forced to travel to Britain for an abortion. Abortion continues to be unavailable in Ireland and the court ruling was based on the failure of Irish governments to legislate for abortion under the 'X case' an infamous case from 1992 when a 14 year old rape victim X was prevented leaving the country to get an abortion in England. The WSM was centrally involved in the mobilizations that forced the courts to back down and allow X to travel and has continued to be involved in the pro-choice movement since that time. Below is the coverage we provided on Thursday on WSM.IE as the ABC result was revealed.

imageHow free can you be if you can’t even control your own body? Sep 23 by Aileen 0 comments

Last year, in Ireland, a pregnant woman carrying a foetus which could not survive was brought before the Irish courts. The state insisted that she carry it to term. That is what Ireland’s anti-abortion law meant for Miss “D”, a 17 year old in the care of the Health Services Executive. She was four months pregnant when her foetus was diagnosed with anencephaly. The outlook for individuals with this is extremely poor; stillbirth or death a few hours after birth. As the Choice Ireland group said at the time “No woman should have to endure the trauma of carrying to full term a child who will not live more than a few hours. By preventing “Miss D” from travelling to Britain for an abortion the Irish government are defining women as uterine incubators rather than individuals entitled to basic human rights”. This article examines how such of tragic state of affairs came to pass. It documents the struggle in Ireland for abortion rights, highlighting the role anarchists played in fighting for a womens right to choose.

textAbortion rights in Ireland Apr 25 by Workers Solidarity 0 comments

There will be no change in the law on abortion. A Government spokesman said it had "no plans on the general issue of abortion" despite Bertie Ahern's promise before the last general election that the matter would be addressed.

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textCork Queer Pride 2005: What are we Proud of? & who can we rely on? Aug 02 WSM 0 comments

So what are exactly are we proud of? Is it just that we are attracted to a particular gender or genders? Or, are we proud of our courageous history of struggles as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered/ LGBT/ Queer people for our rights, and against bigotry, oppression and hatred?

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