Woman Denied Abortion Dies

This is horrible.

“Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning Savita asked if they could not save the baby could they induce to end the pregnancy. The consultant said, ‘As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can’t do anything’.

“Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion. The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita [a Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do.

From The Guardian:

She died of septicaemia and E Coli. She died after three and a half days of excruciating pain. She died after repeatedly begging for an end to the pregnancy that was poisoning her. Her death would have been avoided if she had been given an abortion when she asked for it – when it was clear she was miscarrying, and that non-intervention would put her at risk. But the foetus, which had no chance of survival, still had a heartbeat. Its right to life quite literally trumped hers.

What pisses me off is if they end up blaming doctors or nurses for what’s basically an administrative and legal matter.

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found the procedure should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.

….

Opposition politicians appealed Wednesday for Kenny’s government to introduce legislation immediately to make the 1992 Supreme Court judgment part of statutory law. Barring any such bill, the only legislation defining the illegality of abortion in Ireland dates to 1861 when the entire island was part of the United Kingdom. That British law, still valid here due to Irish inaction on the matter, states it is a crime to “procure a miscarriage.”

Historically and legally, stories like this get dismissed as the fantasies of deranged feminists.

Left-wing TDs Clare Daly and Joan Collins described the woman’s death as an outrage.

They criticised the Government for failing to adopt their X Case Bill earlier this year, which would have introduced new laws to allow an abortion in specific life-threatening circumstances.

Ms Daly said: ‘A woman has died because Galway University Hospital refused to perform an abortion needed to prevent serious risk to her life. This is a situation we were told would never arise.

‘An unviable foetus – the woman was having a miscarriage – was given priority over the woman’s life, who unfortunately and predictably developed septicaemia and died.’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny would give no indication as to whether he would introduce laws allowing women to have a termination in certain life-threatening circumstances.

Comments

  1. Dani says

    “Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.”

    Um, she died from E Coli and septicaemia. How many more “obviously life-threatening circumstances” did they need?!

    It’s scary because this isn’t the first account I’ve read of a woman being refused an abortion even when the fetus was already dead/dying and it was negatively affecting the mother’s health. This is horrible.

  2. says

    I’m glad you pointed out that people are unfairly blaming doctors. Doctors are always being hampered by bureaucrats who don’t know medicine and don’t care about patients. I see no reason to assume these doctors took pleasure in denying this woman the care she needed. Perhaps the Pope did, or some of his minions, or even Irish law makers. That’s where the blame belongs.

    Dani, and it won’t be the last. This is simply the sort of thing that happens when people base laws on religion instead of science, academics or just logic. Faith is supposed to be unmoving and stable – you keep believing no matter what happens. But government is designed to evolve. Like a scientific theory, government must be tested, re-tested and recalibrated through changes of leadership and changes of law. Religion just isn’t suited to government, and I don’t know why people think it should be. Or why it needs to be. In fact, when people need laws to match their religion, I wonder if they’re kind of falling a little short on that faith thing, you know? ;)

  3. says

    Here’s a thought: can her family sue Ireland in the European Court of Human Rights? I don’t understand how that court works, precisely, but it seems they have a broad mandate. I’m wondering if a definitive ruling from them that you may not violate the rights of born humans in the supposed attempt to preserve the rights of the unborn would impact the world in any way.

    I also keep thinking this constitutes an act of war, and I’m not being hyperbolic. Humanity’s fought more than a few wars over the question of who qualifies as human, and who should die for whom, and so on. When I put it in that perspective, I can’t help feeling that this is already a bloody conflict.

  4. SunlessNick says

    It may not be the doctors who decided the policy of refusing Savita an abortion, but it is they who decided not to give antibiotics until she was already dying, despite her high risk of infection. So IMO it’s perfectly fair to throw blame at them as well as administrators and politicians.

    Jennifer Kesler,

    In theory, Savita’s family could go the European Court of Human Rights, but only after exhausting all domestic options (although “exhaust” also means “cannot try for some reason” as well as “tried and it didn’t work”). As far as I know, their decisions don’t have the same force of precedent that most national court systems have.

  5. Cheryl says

    Absolutely disgusting. To say the hospital’s decision to let her die slowly and miserably rather than abort a nonviable fetus is beyond reprehensible and heartless. The widower should sue the hospital’s figurative arse off. The laws won’t change, though. None of the old men in power will allow that.

  6. Cheryl says

    Dani:
    “Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.”

    Um, she died from E Coli and septicaemia.How many more “obviously life-threatening circumstances” did they need?!

    My thoughts exactly. And not starting antibiotics until after the baby was officially dead. Never mind that it had already been medically ruled non-viable, so it was a moot point if the antibiotics would have any negative effects on its growth and development. The whole situation is bass ackwards and ranker than the Body Farm on a summer day.

  7. says

    SunlessNick,

    From the first link in the article:

    “That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics.

    “The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”

    That clearly implies they started her on antibiotics before the fetus died. Did you read differently somewhere else?

  8. says

    Huh, looks like the European Court already looked at this law… specifically, the 1861 constitution that made abortion illegal in Ireland for any reason. (A 1992 court case established that abortions are okay to save the mother’s life, BUT 5 successive governments haven’t made it into law, and no one wants to be the test case of “her life wasn’t really in danger.”)

    From here :

    Rachel Donnelly, Galway Pro-Choice spokesperson stated:
    “This was an obstetric emergency which should have been dealt with in a routine manner. Yet Irish doctors are restrained from making obvious medical decisions by a fear of potentially severe consequences. As the European Court of Human Rights ruled, as long as the 1861 Act remains in place, alongside a complete political unwillingness to touch the issue, pregnant women will continue to be unsafe in this country.”

    Damn. It’s already been recognized as a violation of human rights, but the Irish government is busy whistling and casting their eyes in any other direction.

  9. SunlessNick says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    That clearly implies they started her on antibiotics before the fetus died. Did you read differently somewhere else?

    I interpreted the shakes, vomiting, and collapsing as her already dying.

  10. says

    SunlessNick,

    I’m sure in hindsight that’s true, but I thought those were the first indications of something being wrong with her and not just the fetus. So you may well be right, but I’m still going to wait until we have more information before I decide who to blame. Other than the Pope and Irish lawmakers. I’m confident we can go right ahead and blame them already. ;)

  11. SunlessNick says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    The first indication of something being actively wrong, but she was at an obviously high risk from the get-go; that’s why I’m being slow to let them off the hook.

    According to Irish people I’ve spoken to on other forums (caveat: none of them lawyers as far as I know), they would have faced losing their licenses if they had performed an abortion – the Irish constitution has what amounts to a personhood amendment, and European Parliament/Court* decisions mandating abortions be available in cases like this haven’t been signed into law. So lawmakers, successive parliaments-full in fact, are also thoroughly to blame.

    * The European Parliament isn’t like a federal body – the laws is passes have to be ratified by the governments of member countries – it can sanction (fine, essentially) those who refuse, but can’t actually force compliance if they decide they prefer to put up with the sanctions than ratify the law. This also makes this a demonstration what a similar state’s rights “solution” would look like in America.

  12. says

    SunlessNick, that IS a great parallel to our wacky state & federal system. And the other big issue there right now is that WA and CO just legalized marijuana, which remains entirely against Federal law. If the Feds say, go ahead and we’ll leave you alone, then it seems to me some will argue they also set a precedent for not interfering with state bans on abortion. But if the administration points out that marijuana isn’t more unhealthy than a lot of other things the govt allows, but abortion is linked to a number of health issues, then THAT might establish a precedent for the Feds only interfering in state laws that could cause harm. Which makes sense to me. I’m not a huge fan of states’ rights, anyway – they’ve been used mainly to harm minorities, IMO.

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