Ireland’s Medieval Abortion Laws

Savita Halappanavar protest“Another heavenly day.” That’s the first thing that Winnie says in Happy Days, one of Samuel Beckett’s most disturbing plays. Every day is heavenly in Ireland, because they are a Roman Catholic country. And as such, abortion is illegal in that God fearing country.

You know what really makes for a heavenly day? Carrying around a dead fetus in your womb. It’s heavenly is so many ways. First, you can feel the honor of doing something totally useful for the sake of God. (Although, I still find the logic against abortion and condoms kind of circuitous owing to the fact that neither of them are in the Bible.) Second, you get to suffer—just like that Jesus guy. And third, you get to see God so much sooner.

Savita Halappanavar had many heavenly days before her 28 October death due to blood poisoning resulting from her dead fetus. She was 17 weeks pregnant. And she tried to get an abortion because the fetus was not viable. But the good Christian doctors of Ireland wouldn’t provide that service. Mustn’t offend God. Or something.

Halappanavar was a 31-year-old dentist from India. So if this is what happens to rich educated women, you can imagine the situation for the poor and uneducated. Of course, Ireland has public funding of healthcare so that helps. Imagine the situation in another country, say, the United States. The problem with Ireland is not that it’s Catholic. After all, in Italy, they allow abortion for the first 3 months of a pregnancy. The problem is that Ireland is parochial. A much bigger problem is that the United States is even more parochial.

Add to that, major politicians like Joe Walsh who said the “death of the mother” exception for abortion was just a loophole to allow women to get more and more abortions. He claimed that there was no such thing, “With modern science and technology, you can’t find one instance.” Thankfully, Walsh lost his re-election bid, but I fear he will be back.

I have long been of the opinion that we as liberals should not be in a discussion of rape or life exceptions. But that is because cases like these shouldn’t even be open to discussion. The Halappanavar case shows that this isn’t just an issue of politics or even individual rights. When we allow the debate to be framed by those on the right, lives are at stake.

According to Wikipedia, the “Hospital is being subjected to several investigations.” Does anyone really think the problem here is medical malpractice? This is political malpractice. No amount of hospital reform will prevent this from happening again. Hopefully, Savita Halappanavar’s death will do some good. It seems there is some push back against these medieval laws. But this is an unnecessary tragedy caused by extremists who think that zygotes are more important than living, breathing women.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

7 thoughts on “Ireland’s Medieval Abortion Laws

  1. Man, that is awful. And what makes it really bad is that the fetus was dead. Not only are zygotes more important than living, breathing, sentient women, but [i]dead[/i] zygotes are more important than living, breathing, sentient women. There is no word to describe how awful this is.

    And Joe Walsh is one hell of a fucktard. The fact that people elected him scares me, but the fact that people canned him in the last election gives me a little hope.

    I can’t believe Joe Walsh said that you can’t find one instance of a dead fetus threatening the life of the mother. What a dipshit. I can give him one instance: Rick Santorum’s wife!

  2. I once had a conversation with a conservative who was shocked that I was pro-abortion and anti-death penalty. What was most telling was the complete ignorance of human reproductive biology. She was in favor of birth control pills but thought life starts at conception, but couldn’t understand that birth control hormones but the female body in a state of pseudo-pregnancy which prevents implantation of the zygote in the uterus. Equating a ball of cells with a human being is absurd. According to Richard Dawkins most zygotes spontaneously self-abort (not sure if that’s really the right word but you get my meaning). Now we can have a scientific debate about when a fetus becomes a human, obviously saying a fetus is not a human until the moment of birth is equally absurd. This is a grey area and not everyone agrees. However debates that are fundamentally along the lines of when does the soul enter the body are not helpful.

  3. @Mack – There is some question as to what exactly a dead fetus is. Supposedly, if it is dead, it will be spontaneously aborted. The main thing is that the doctors knew the fetus was not viable. It is all so horrible.

  4. @Andy – Over half of all pregnancies are spontaneously aborted. That’s a lot of abortions!

    I think the issue is about suffering. Can the fetus suffer? Clearly at the 16-cell zygote state, it cannot. I don’t know enough about all this stuff to say more than this. Of course, the anti-choice folk don’t care about this issue at all. As far as I can tell, they only care that the fetus has human potential. This is why they are anti-choice but not Jainists or at least fruitarians.

    I can’t see all this as anything other than these people care about theory more than they care about people. And that is terrible.

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