Don’t blame Irish law for Savita’s death
I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of Joyce McMillan when she writes that a pregnancy in the Irish Republic can be ended “only if the mother’s life is directly at risk” (Perspective, 17 November).
In this heartbreaking case in Galway the life of Savita Halappanavar was clearly at grave risk. Surely there was a catastrophic misjudgment by the doctors involved.
The termination of this pregnancy could – and should – have taken place, even if mother could not be saved, and would not have been contrary to the law.
Many years ago I was a firm and clear advocate of “abortion at will”. One of my mantras was: “It’s a woman’s body: she has the right to decide what to do with it.”
I said this once to a student midwife, who, like me, was a non-Catholic. She asked me: “Have you ever seen a 12-week-old foetus, lying on a slab?” When I said I had not, she said: “Well, I have, and I cried all day.” Since then I have felt the right to life of the helpless babe in the womb is a matter of basic compassion and tenderness and I am completely at a loss to understand why Joyce – and many others – regard views such as mine as “bitter and illiberal”. I feel just as sad as Joyce that the lovely smile of Mrs Halappanavar is now frozen in time. This tragedy should not have happened, but I believe the reason it did was not the Irish law but the fault of the doctors involved.
By remarkable coincidence, on the very next page to Joyce’s article is one in which, writing on something quite different, Graham Leicester commented that life has “some wicked problems which are complex and messy, have no easy answers, yet tend to be covered in simplistic black and white terms”.
Tragic though the death of Savita Halappanavar was, an abortion in her case would not have contravened the Irish law or medical guidelines, or the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
Abortions to save the mother’s life have accounted for just 0.013 per cent of the total in the UK, so to conflate mass abortion on demand with this tiny number is clearly a disingenuous rhetorical trick.
Of course, it will take more than gaping holes in the argument to stop the tidal wave of emotionally driven calls for the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.
I oppose abortion, except in medical emergencies, because I value human life intrinsically, including the life of the unborn.
To Joyce McMillan, this moral position automatically implies that I am part of a patriarchal plot to oppress and enslave women.
Such demonisation of dissent is the speciality of contemporary progressives: why bother engaging with the arguments when a pejorative label can be slapped on opponents without any intellectual exertion?
Veronika Wikman, who subsequently made the inaccurate sensationalist and inflammatory claim that Ms Halappanavar was “killed in the name of religion” (Letters, 17 November), might like to reflect on how many people are alive and well today in Ireland because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church that protected them before birth.
The Catholic Church and its teaching on abortion cannot be blamed for the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar.
Equally tragic, and less widely reported, is the story last year of Jessie-Maye Barlow, who contracted the superbug streptococcus B during an abortion procedure and subsequently died.
Would Veronica Wilkman and Dr Stephen Moreton (Letters 17 November) be so quick to condemn the secular authorities and demand changes to the abortion law in such a case? Somehow, I think not.
The heart-breaking death of Savita must not be used as an excuse to justify the outright, deliberate killing of the most innocent and vulnerable in society.
Disrespect for the unborn signals a wider disrespect for human life and is morally corrosive. Abortion is the taking of a pure, innocent, unborn life.
The Catholic Church understands this and it is a tragedy that it is too often dismissed and ignored.
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