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.