Abortion and Unnecessary Death: A Multicultural Issue

For too long the word abortion has been associated with politicians; it has become a slogan of where your politics lie. Last month, we saw a victim to the ping-pong of abortion politics. It took the death of Savita Halappanavar to bring a human face to this issue, an innocent victim killed by warped policy.

Savita Halappanavar died on October 28, 2012 of blood poisoning, after being denied a termination that could have saved her life. Savita has become an unlikely hero of the abortion rights movement. Extreme politicians such as the UK’s Nadine Dorris claim that women who seek abortions are young, reckless, or career women who have "convenience abortions." Savita was the antithesis of this. A 31-year-old dentist, a married Indian woman who had immigrated to Ireland. Savita was admitted into hospital miscarrying her 17-week-old pregnancy. She asked for an abortion and was denied.

 Her husband recollected "Savita asked if they could not save the baby could they induce to end the pregnancy. The consultant said: 'As long as there is a fetal heartbeat we can't do anything.'" Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion. The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita (an Indian Hindu) said "I am neither Irish nor Catholic," but they said there was nothing they could do.  Ireland, a Catholic country, has some of the world’s strictest laws regarding abortion. The controversy before Savita’s death was that women in Ireland had to travel to Britain to receive an abortion. This, of course, created huge barriers in terms of time frame, cost, and access. And in Savita’s case she was too ill to travel to England.
Medical professionals take a Hippocratic oath to save a life first and foremost. Policy makers that value the unborn fetus as more important than the life of a woman, hinder this. When risk of prosecution looms over a medical professional's head, he or she has no incentive to save a woman’s life through abortion. The reality is that it often takes a tragic event like this to bring policy to the forefront of peoples' minds. Unfortunately, unlike other policies such as vitamin fortification that are supported across all organizations, abortion is throttled by religious intervention. Savita, a Hindu, became a victim of a policy against abortion heavily supported by the Catholic Church.

For many, it brought forward the concept that if you are Catholic you are under no obligation to have an abortion. Neither is a Hindu woman, but if a simple procedure such as removing a dying fetus to save her life is requested, this should be available to any woman regardless of religion.

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