Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

When Dogma Kills

Posted by Ethan Clow on November 26, 2012

Here’s a sad example of the harm of religious dogma. By now you’ve probably heard of the death of Savita Halappanavar. We discussed this story on Radio Freethinker last week.

Savita was dentist who lived in Galway, Ireland and was 17 weeks pregnant, she went to the hospital after experiencing back pains, she was found to be miscarrying. After some time in agonizing pain, she asked for the pregnancy to be terminated,  she was refused because quote “because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.”

She had to suffer through 2 and a half more days of agony until the fetus died and was removed. Savita was then moved to high intensity care, where she later died of septicaemia.

What moves this beyond the realm of terrible tragedy is the statements from Savita’s husband, Praveen, who said that when they learned that the baby was dying as a result of the miscarriage and after being informed that there was nothing they could do to save the baby, Savita asked for an abortion. But the hospital staff refused, saying the baby would die naturally within a few hours.

But that’s not what happened, instead the trauma continued for days. Even when Savita became critically ill, the staff still refused to abort the pregnancy.

Because of Ireland’s anti-abortion laws, two lives were lost and a family was destroyed.

Not only is abortion illegal in Ireland, it’s illegal for doctors to tell patients about their abortion options in other countries, it’s also illegal for people to travel to another country for an abortion. The only way an abortion is legal in Ireland is if it’s necessary to save the mother’s life. However the wording of the laws have been kept intentionally vague to prevent doctors from administering abortions.

Despite the fact that in 2010 European Court of Human Rights judgment demanded Ireland clarify the status of abortion in Irish law.

The abortion laws in Ireland are directly tied to the nation being a stalwart “Catholic” and “Christian” nation. The regressive views of the Catholic church on abortion have been well documented in the past so we don’t need to spend too much time rehashing them. The implications of these abortion laws is a demonstrable affront on the autonomy of women in Ireland and access to medical treatment that the rest of the population enjoys. It should also be noted that the hospital was in fact, a Catholic hospital.

Getting back to the situation in Ireland, Savita’s death has sparked international outrage and protests in Dublin. One Indian newspaper went so far as to suggest that the hospital murdered Savita.

Large protests, occurring twice over the span of 3 days in Dublin have reignited the debate over abortion and according to some reports, have pushed the public opinion to having a more liberal view of abortion. Seeking to address international criticism, Ireland announced its fact-finding investigation would be led by Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, a Sri Lankan-born expert on maternal care who is head of obstetrics and gynecology at St. George’s Hospital in London

However, the reality is that any review could take months, and the Irish government is in no hurry to address its antiquated laws on abortion.

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