OPINION: Savita and a Case of the X

What does it mean to be Pro Life or Pro Choice?  Are the two terms mutually exclusive? Those are questions I’ve pondered more extensively in the past 24 hours than ever before. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic and sadly, I don’t think it will be the last.

Abortion is not legal in this country and it’s still an issue that divides the population. You need only look at billboards and busses to note that there are a significant number of people who do want to keep Ireland, in their own terms, ‘abortion free’.

But 20 years ago something changed. The Supreme Court met and heard the case of Miss X, a 14 year old girl who was raped by a neighbour, fell pregnant and allegedly became suicidal. For the first time the right to life of the mother was brought before the stand and the judge ruled that it was just as important. This landmark ruling established the right for Irish women to have an abortion if the pregnant woman’s life was at risk because of pregnancy, including the risk of suicide.

The ruling in the X Case resulted in the proposal of three amendments to the Constitution. The 12th Amendment proposed to roll back the X Case and remove suicide as a grounds for an abortion in Ireland. It was defeated. The Irish people voted in favour of the 13th and 14thAmendments which gave women the freedom to travel outside the state for an abortion and the freedom to obtain information on services that were available outside the state. Article 40 of the Constitution was duly amended.

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

20 years later, we’re still waiting for legislation on that ‘due regard to the equal right to the life of the mother. Two weeks ago, one mother to be lost her life because she was apparently denied an abortion. Her baby was beyond saving but still had a heartbeat. Savita had a heartbeat too. Now neither of them do. Their deaths were both tragic but the question remains: could her death have been prevented if she was given the abortion her husband claims she asked for?

It’s no secret that Ireland hasn’t got the best track record on the issue. In December 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland failed to properly implement the constitutional right to abortion where a woman is entitled to one where her life is at risk and earlier this year a group of mothers whose children were beyond saving came forward to tell their stories. Abortion may not be available in Ireland but that doesn’t mean women aren’t having them. And many are forced to travel overseas to abort babies that could never have survived. Why should they have to do that? Why can’t they have an abortion in Ireland if the child is beyond saving? Why couldn’t Savita have an abortion when her baby was already dying slowly inside her and her body gradually being poisoned.

Note something here. I’m not asking why someone who simply didn’t want a baby couldn’t have an abortion. I’m asking why someone whose child was beyond saving could be denied one? Why a woman whose body was slowly being poisoned was allowed to suffer while already going through the pain of losing her child regardless? Because Ireland is ‘abortion free’ and there are people who want to keep it that way.

Now let me start off by saying that, in theory, I have no problem with people who are Pro Life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect the right to life of the unborn child. It’s the tactics, the scaremongering, the repression, the lies and the hypocrisy which really grind my gears. Being Pro Choice does not make me Anti Life or Pro Abortion. NOBODY is Pro Abortion and to suggest otherwise is madness. I have the utmost respect for those who are Pro Life and respectful about it but I have no respect for groups like Youth Defence, who I believe fail to show any degree of compassion or respect for those women who have been justified in their requests for abortions. I make this judgement based on their conduct and their campaigns which I believe to be ignorant.

I’m not saying termination, I’m not saying ‘life saving medical treatments’, because I’m talking about removing a baby from the womb either way.

A crowd gathers outside Leinster House in support of SavitaI’m Pro Choice because I have no idea what I would do if I ended up in a situation where I had to consider having an abortion. I hope I never end up in that situation but I would like to think that if I did it would be up to ME to decide what to do. I don’t see abortion as a contraceptive, I see it as a last resort and I know I am one of millions who feel the same way. I’m just wondering, what is it about that belief that makes me Anti Life?

I’m Pro Choice because I think women like Miss X and Savita, in situations w have a right to decide what happens to them. And so does The Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. I’m not talking about abortion for the sake of it after X many weeks or ‘Abortions for all or Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others’.

I’m not hijacking a young woman’s tragic death to achieve any Pro Choice ends (as I believe many individuals and groups might argue). I’m saying give us legislation on X because if it transpires that it could have saved Savita then we have nobody to blame but ourselves. If that means I’m Pro Abortion and advocating murder in your eyes, then we’re never going to get along.

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