Sectarian anti-abortion laws and political cowardice are responsible for the medieval treatment of Savita Halappanavar and her tragic death. Never again should a woman in this country suffer such oppression.
This tragic case also points to the need that legislation would go beyond the terms of the Supreme Court ruling on the X case, as this in itself would not guarantee that Savita or any other pregnant woman in the future would get the treatment that they would require.
The X case rulings only allows for an abortion if there is a real and substantive risk to a woman’s life, as opposed to her health, and it seems that it was this very restrictive stipulation that may have been used to justify not giving Savita the termination she needed.
We reject the counter posing of the health of a woman to her life, in 21st Century Ireland are they saying that women’s health doesn’t matter? It is now necessary for the right to free, legal and safe abortion to be available in this country.
As the discussion around her death has progressed, it is emerging that Savita would have received a termination in other hospitals. But despite her persistent pleas, she was denied a termination and her husband Praveen has stated that they were told this was because there was a foetal heart beat and because this is ‘a Catholic country’.
It can’t be down to random chance as to whether a pregnant woman gets life-saving treatment. A–ll women must have a right to choose and those choices must be respected and not denied. There must be an immediate separation of Church from State.
Right away measures could be taken so that what happened to Savita won’t happen again. Joe Higgins demanded in the Dáil that the HSE issue a directive immediately to all hospitals that such requests for a termination, which would have been acted upon in some hospitals, are from now on acted upon in all hospitals.
Abortion in Ireland- a history of hypocrisy and inaction
Successive Irish governments have refused to legislate for the X Case despite the Supreme Court ruling that would provide abortion under very limited circumstances. This shows the spineless and backward nature of the parties of the capitalist establishment. That includes Labour who has been in government for seven of the twenty years since the X case. None of these can be relied on.
It is essential that the pressure is sustained and increased by ordinary working class people so that it results in real change on abortion rights. As we approach the anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out, instead of inaction the trade union movement must get involved and should be championing the rights of women.
Traditionally the Irish capitalist establishment and their parties leaned on the Catholic Church as a socially conservative force to maintain the status quo. Today they prop up a discredited church allowing them significant control and influence over education and health and in this both are barriers to the achievement of genuine equality and undermine the rights of women.
Attacks on women’s rights
In many ways capitalism still tries to treat women as second class citizens. The vicious implementation of austerity disproportionately affects women. Women make the majority of workers in the public sector and will be affected most by cuts to social services and provisions. Along with this, sexism is on the rise within the media and society at large.
Over the last twenty years, we’ve been told that Ireland was becoming a more progressive society but Savita’s tragic death demonstrates that achieving real social change is a fight that still has to be won.
The Socialist Party fights for a democratic, secular and socialist society where the laws of the country reflect the needs and rights of all the people and where the vast resources that exist are used to develop a society that gives all women real choices and real equality.
Socialist Party demands:
- An immediate HSE directive to all hospitals to ensure that requests for termination from women whose health or life is endangered are acted upon quickly so that Savita’s fate is never repeated
- No more delays, immediate legislation for abortion that goes further than the Supreme Court ruling in the X case. A real and substantive treat to life of a woman is not enough – what about women’s health, what about in cases of rape or incest
- A mass sustained campaign of pressure rooted in every community and workplace for the availability of free, legal and safe abortion facilities provided though the public health service for all women who require
- Complete separation of Church and State – end the influence of the Church in the health and education systems
- End this backward capitalist system that continues to discriminate and oppress women. For a democratic, secular and socialist society based on real equality and putting the needs of people before the profits of the few.