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Shame

Emer O’Toole is from beautiful Galway. She was born in the hospital where Savita Halappanavar died because that hospital refused to treat her until too late. She is ashamed.

This is a Catholic country. If these were indeed the words used by the doctors, then the hospital did not feel the need to sugarcoat its rationale with references to Halappanavar’s psychological health, or the wellbeing of her foetus. Its ideology was not veiled – as Youth Defence, Precious Life and Ireland’s other powerful anti-abortion lobbyists have learned to do – in the language of care and concern for women. The rationale was not cloaked in academic arguments about the moment when human life begins.

It’s hard to veil refusal to save a woman’s life in the language of care and concern for women.

I know what it’s like to try to speak out against anti-choice hegemony in Ireland. I know how hard it is to even form pro-choice opinions at all. Like 95% of people schooled in Ireland, I had a Catholic education and was heavily propagandised against abortion. More, I had to navigate the biased information offered by the Irish press. RTÉ, our national broadcaster, did not even report on a 2,000-strong pro-choice march in Dublin earlier this year, while it continues to cover anti-abortion movements in the provinces. Teachers and journalists, this is your fault too.

It’s the same in the US, you know. How often do you see sympathetic characters in movies or tv shows get an abortion? How often do you see sympathetic characters in movies or tv shows decide to continue an unwanted pregnancy? I don’t know about you, but my answer to the first would have to be “never” and to the second “often.”

To her family, I want to say: I am ashamed, I am culpable, and I am sorry. For every letter to my local politician I didn’t write, for every protest I didn’t join, for keeping quiet about abortion rights in the company of conservative relations and friends, for becoming complacent, for thinking that Ireland was changing, for not working hard enough to secure that change, for failing to create a society in which your wife, your daughter, your sister was able to access the care that she needed: I am sorry. You must think that we are barbarians.

Again – it’s the same here. Bishops force hospitals to refuse to do abortions no matter what; religious hospital administrations decide that on their own; doctors and nurses refuse to do their jobs. The state looks the other way. Religion governs medical issues in many circumstances. This has got to stop. We have to work harder to make it stop.

Comments

  1. says

    Yes. I absolutely agree. We have to stand up next to our sisters, and BE THE CHANGE we want to see in this world. It’s so so so heartbreaking that this kind of shit hasn’t *just* started happening. Savita cannot possibly have been so unique in her physiology that she was the first woman in 100 years to die because she did not receive a timely abortion. How many women have we let die because we just didn’t want to think about these cases? Because the word abortion just meant silly sluts who didn’t want to take responsibility for not saying no? Abortion rights are absolutely about morality but not at all in the way that the Christian Right frames it. The right to an abortion is about how morally we treat our women.

    (related rant at my blog)

  2. steve84 says

    Enda Kenny is also extremely hypocritical when he says that he sees no priority for legislation (which I think was before this incident, but still) while at the same time making a passionate speech saying that canon law has no place in Ireland’s legal system. Which is it?

  3. Pteryxx says

    How often do you see sympathetic characters in movies or tv shows get an abortion? How often do you see sympathetic characters in movies or tv shows decide to continue an unwanted pregnancy? I don’t know about you, but my answer to the first would have to be “never” and to the second “often.”

    Not to mention, how often do you see women characters heroically die in childbirth (usually mentioned briefly as background info) so the kid can go on to be an actual, on-camera heroic main character with whom the audience identifies?

    This often: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathByChildbirth

    That’s what women are for, after all (my natal sect actually taught this, word for word.) They get the God-given privilege and honor of death by childbearing. *spits*

    For a particularly badly timed example, see the Twilight finale:

    http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/11/15/1199711/savita-halapannavar-bella-swan/

    When we last saw Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, Bella was suffering from a pregnancy that was killing her. Her fetus was starving her of nutrition and giving her pregnancy cravings for blood. Despite the extreme danger to her life, Bella insisted on keeping her baby.[…]

    Millions of people will get that message in a movie theater this weekend. But what they should really know is that callous disregard for a woman’s life doesn’t transform her into a higher being, even if both she and her baby survive hardship.

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