The Difference a Day Makes.
Yesterday when I first heard of the events surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar from multiple news outlets I quickly became emotional by what I was hearing from the trickle of information and innuendo that was being put forward. When I read about the alleged statement about Ireland being a ‘Catholic country’ I lost objectivity and I became enraged and this ultimately culminated in what can only be described as a reactionary piece of writing by myself. This may have been largely due to having heard people in the past proclaim Ireland in such a fashion – under different circumstances – and the statement being given a level of significance in the media that it likely didn’t deserve, but that is no excuse. I should have known better. I should have taken a long moment and thought it through. I didn’t. Instead I reacted without knowing nearly enough about the situation at hand.
Having had 24 hours to simmer down, a literal night of tossing and turning in my sleep, and having discussed further the incident with posters here, I’ll attempt to rein in my emotions and approach the issue again.
While I framed my last post using the caveat of ‘the statement, if accurate,’ I didn’t go to enough lengths to highlight that my outrage was only valid if said statement was accurate AND the context in which it was said was as it appeared. Through discussion with finishedatlast and other posters it occurred to me that while the utterance seems totally bizarre and inappropriate in the situation described it may have been an attempt by the member of staff to explain away the lack of a legislation which would make it clear when an abortion was allowed. That the reason for no legislation was because the people of Ireland (the majority of whom are indeed Catholic), despite 20 years having lapsed since the X Case and the constitutional changes surrounding it, have not held their elected TDs accountable for not legislating the changes in question. This may be the more likely context of the quote, although obviously by stating that Ireland is Catholic is hardly a sufficient and full address of the issues underlying our lack of clear legal rights regarding abortion.
As it stands we are awaiting official findings to ascertain exactly what happened in this tragic case. It may well be that Savita could have survived had she had an abortion when she initially requested one, although this is working under the assumption that what proved fatal to her was as a result of a reported 3 day miscarry and that she did not have septicaemia before it was medically determined that her foetus was not viable. We just don’t have enough information to draw any firm conclusions as of yet.
I stand by the assertion that anyone in a position of power or influence must not allow their religious beliefs to influence decision making and should be removed if they do. However, clearly that point may not be relevant to the tragedy at hand and should not be the focus of discussion.
Our focus should be on the loss of life which may have been avoidable. The focus should be on the cowardly TDs and their lack of backbone in successive governments to legislate for the High Court ruling that may have saved Savita’s life. If it had been legislated for and a law existed in black and white there is a good chance this discussion would not be happening in the emotive manner it is. That’s not to say that Savita would still be alive but there would be little speculation surrounding the reasons why an abortion was refused if indeed it would have been at all.
I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt of context regarding the ‘Catholic country” statement and will wait official findings instead of allowing emotions to better me again. However, I do firmly believe that if Savita did indeed request an abortion for a foetus that was not viable and she was indeed suffering in great pain that there should have been no question about what the course of action should have been. People will be quick to jump to the defence of medical staff who were unsure of the law and may have been protecting themselves from liability but it must also be remembered that a medical doctor’s first priority is the well being of their patient and if it turns out an abortion could have saved Savita’s life then there is no excuse that should have prevented it happening.
That all said, until we have the results of the various inquires no one can or should be held accountable, or shoulder the blame, for this sad loss of life. In the coming weeks I hope the events will become clearer. For now the only people we can look to with any real sense of outrage is the government for allowing an environment to exist where such a discussion is even possible.