This controversy emerges from the fact that no legislation has been put in place to recognise in law, what the constitution says. There was an opportunity to make the constitutional clause stronger (i.e. dismissing suicide as a threat to the mother’s life), but that was rejected by the Irish people.
Savita Halappanavar either caught her infection before or after the procedure that evacuated her womb. If it occurred after her miscarriage, then it is simply another case of our dirty hospitals killing our people.
If however it happened before she miscarried, then there is some very real blame which needs to find a home.
Now some things are clear about this case, if Savita Halappanavar had a dilated cervix, with blood and amniotic fluid flowing freely from her womb, she was miscarrying. At 17 weeks there was no chance that the baby could have survived. Then, as I understand it, the appropriate thing to do is to digitally remove the baby, or where that is not possible, it is dismembered internally, and then removed, this is then followed by a procedure called a curettage – essentially the womb is scraped out.
In the case where the Irish state was taken to the European Court of Human Rights by Miss ‘C’ (who had a rare form of cancer when she became pregnant) the chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was very clear that in such cases, this is not considered an abortion. Though a series of mental backflips (essentially, because if a mother was to die because of pregnancy, then the child would never be) an abortion is not an abortion, because there is no baby.
In the case of poor Savita Halappanavar, either she was the victim of medical incompetence, having caught an infection because she had an open wound left untreated for days. Or she was a victim of a prejudiced medic who did not want to preform a procedure on conscientious grounds. Or she was a victim of a situation where a medic feared to do a necessary procedure because they were operating within a legal vacuum.
If this is simply a terrible instance of incompetence then we need to know why our doctors are capable of making such stupid decisions.
If the second scenario is true, then we are in the incredible situation that we have to find a way of protecting our citizens against the wilful harm that some of strict religious observance are prepared to do them.
If it is the third scenario, then we, ALL OF US, are to blame. Ms. ‘C’ brought this state to court, successfully. The European Court of Human Rights agreed that it is unfair that the sick pregnant women of Ireland are not catered for within our law, despite the constitutional clauses which protect them.
For a generation the Irish state has failed to recognise the protections that our own constitution affords the mothers of Ireland.
There will be a coroners inquest, this will determine the facts which surround Savita Halappanavar’s death. If it is the case that she became infected during her miscarriage, and if the doctor was not simply incompetent, then the state failed her. Either by not protecting her from religious zealotry, or by not facilitating her doctor in doing what was necessary.