Another day, another foetus saved! Well, sort of. I mean, it did die in the end. The poor wee thing was always going to. Its heart was developing partially outside its body and there were other complications that meant it couldn’t possibly survive outside the womb. But, that’s not really the point is it? The great nation state of Ireland has enshrined in its constitution the right to life of the unborn child. It’s the obligation of us on the front lines, us legal-folk, to ensure that that right is protected, at all costs.
Of course, the costs were pretty high today. The mother didn’t fare too well either. She’d come into the hospital a few days before, complaining of abdominal pains. After an ultra-sound it was determined that the baby wasn’t likely to make it but that it had a heartbeat. Bingo! I received a call once the carrier and her husband requested an abortion. Imagine, thinking you could decide to have an abortion just like that! Not on my watch! By the time I’d arrived on the ward with my documents to explain why there was no way there would be an abortion while the child had a heartbeat, it turned out that there were some further complications. The carrier had a severe case of pre-eclampsia. She was at risk of organ damage and even a stroke. The medical staff were beside themselves. They wanted to help the carrier but knew they’d be breaking the law if they did. Still, the foetus was fighting on, and so would I.
Her husband just didn’t seem to get it. I mean, it was his baby we were protecting after-all. He kept pleading and saying things like ‘My wife is here now. She already has a life, an effect on the world. She’s part of a family!’. He was clearly hysterical or something. But, it did give me a moment for pause. What if he had a point? In our noble efforts to protect the unborn child, what if we were putting the foetus’ carrier in harms way? Maybe the carrier could be seen as more, like maybe a person? A person who lives a life. Who has an effect on the lives of others. Who is a part of this
world, a community, and maybe should have more rights than a hypothetical life, that admittedly wasn’t so hypothetical since the foetus was on borrowed time. Maybe the husband had a point when he screamed until he was red in the face that his wife should be able to do as she pleases with her body, especially to protect herself from harm.
All those thoughts flittered through my head in a matter of seconds. But then I remembered the infallible truth of the constitution. We are, I am, the soldier on the front line protecting the unborn from the deeds of the living. I had a job and I would do it. Mind you, the carrier’s children didn’t seem to understand that position either. All they seemed to do was cry. I had to leave the ward for a while and take a long coffee break in my office.
I ended up having three cups of coffee. I found myself imagining what it would be like if it was my wife in that hospital bed. Would I enforce the constitution without hesitation? I tried to imagine her getting sicker and sicker and waiting for the foetus’ heart to stop before allowing her proper treatment. I had to shake myself out of it. It wasn’t my wife, and I had a job to do. Still though…
Anyway, a long story short, it turned out the carrier had a stroke and her liver and kidneys were severely damaged. She’s in a coma at the moment. The doctors think she’ll probably have life changing brain damage, if she makes it. The foetus died shortly after her stroke, and labour was induced. It’s a sad outcome, but I did the right thing. Didn’t I? I followed the letter of the law. I protected and respected the life of the unborn. Sure, it says that we have to have equal regard for the right of the mother to life, but we both know that it’s virtually impossible to juggle both. I hope it’s a long while before I have to fight the good fight again. It doesn’t really make you feel great about yourself. Who’d want to be working with constitutional law like us legal-folk in this country, am I right!?