In the United States reproductive justice and reproductive rights activists warn of what our country will look like if abortion restrictions are allowed to continue. What would happen if we only allowed exceptions for sexually assaulted, incest, health and life pregnant women? Would that protect women? A current case in Ireland gives us the perfect example of why we say no.
When Savita?Halappanavar age 31 died in 2012 while 17 weeks pregnant from sepsis after being refused an abortion to complete her miscarriage. Some were hopeful things in Ireland would change at least a bit. So in 2013 when the new?Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act?passed in the wake of her death many hoped maybe just maybe women would be a bit safer. However groups like Doctors for Choice?warned that the panel system the law put in place was flawed from the beginning.
“When I came to this country I thought I could forget suffering”- Young woman forced to give birth
The woman, a teen who is an asylum seeker from an unnamed country experiencing conflict according to the Irish Independent?was sexually assaulted?before entering Ireland. She discovered she?was pregnant while under the care of an organization serving asylum seekers. According to the BBC when she was 8 weeks pregnant she expressed she would rather die than bear her rapist’s child. Despite that explicit statement and requesting to receive an abortion at that time it appears she was bounced around asylum agencies without being referred to the appropriate agency to start the process to formally request an abortion under the law.
At 16 weeks pregnant she received counseling from a family planning organisation. According to the?Irish Times she said she attempted to take her own life at 16 weeks pregnant, when told by a counselor at the Irish Family Planning Association?the costs of travelling to Britain for an abortion could be as high as ?1,500 euros or almost $2,000 US dollars. In addition to having no money she speaks no English and as a non citizen has no visa. Sidenote?Bpas an abortion provider in England states around 4,500 woman a year go come from Ireland to access abortion care.?
She was admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks due to expressing?suicidal thoughts. When admitted she was told she could not have an abortion because her pregnancy was too far along. She then went?on a hunger and liquid strike. Only after all of that was a three expert panel finally called to determine if she should be allowed to terminate her pregnancy.?The panel, made up of?two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, found she was indeed suicidal. The psychiatrists were in agreement that was indeed suicidal a requirement to get an abortion under Irish law. The obstetrician however felt that at this point the best course was not an abortion but delivery of the fetus regardless of what the woman wanted. They also got an order from the high court to re-hydrate and feed her.?
“They said the pregnancy was too far. It was going to have to be a?Cesarean?section,” the woman told the paper.
“They said, wherever you go in the world, the United States, anywhere, at this point it has to be a?Cesarean.”
If true this means the blatantly lied to her.
She told the Irish Times she ended her hunger strike when she was told she could have an abortion and would need to be strong for surgery. Then was ultimately told her only option was a c-section. Then she chose (in as much as she had a choice) to consent to surgery. The baby boy was delivered at between 24 and 25 weeks gestation earlier this month. He is said to be going into the care of the state. ?Now all this compounded trauma is with her always.
?When I came to this country I thought I could forget suffering… The scar [from the C-section] will never go away. It will always be a reminder. I still suffer. I don’t know if what has happened to me is normal. She adds: ?I just wanted justice to be done. For me, this is injustice.?
In a statement sent to Liberal America by Doctors for Choice Dr Mary Favier, a Cork based GP said
“This case underlines the problems inherent in the legislation of balancing a woman’s rights with those of a foetus and threatening doctors with 14 years in prison for failing to do so. This is ?compounded by the requirement to use multiple doctors to certify eligibility (up to 7 medical assessments) and including an Obstetrician in certifying a risk of suicide.”
In an email to Liberal America, Katrine Thomasen, Legal Adviser for Europe and Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights stated:
Women face innumerable obstacles to access legal abortion services in Ireland, as well as discrimination which disproportionately impacts adolescents, asylum seekers, women with mental health problems and other vulnerable groups……Until Irish officials truly reform the country’s harsh abortion law, we will continue to hear about these incredible and tragic breaches of women’s fundamental human rights. It is high time that the government recognizes that there is only one solution: comprehensive legal reform to ensure that women can access abortion services and do not have to endure attacks on their health and well-being.?
Carol Simmons of the Pro Life Campaign during a rally anti choice groups held in support of the baby boy and Ireland’s abortion restriction said.
“The woman presented herself for a termination and her pregnancy was terminated.”
Yeah sure you could say that (I wouldn’t) except she never wanted to be pregnant or a parent. Now even though she’s relinquished her rights to the child by all reports, the state has forced her to be a parent after giving her no option but a very invasive surgery. ?I won’t even go into how that c-section could impact her future pregnancies if she chooses to have any. After having her body violated by her attacker it was violated again by the Republic of Ireland. Groups like Doctors for Choice are calling for an investigation into possible human rights abuses in the treatment of the young woman.
Dr Mary Favier summed it up well
“‘If a young rape victim, certified as requiring an abortion due to the risk of suicide cannot access abortion services then the legislation and its implementation are clearly fatally flawed.”