Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

It was politics which killed Savita

Tragic case: Savita Halappanavar’s death has reopened the deep divisions over abortion

Twenty years ago X's case made headlines all over the world. But Savita was only a child then.

So it's doubtful she'd have known anything at the time, about the case of the 14-year-old girl in Dublin, pregnant as a result of rape and denied not only a termination in Ireland but denied also permission to leave the country to travel to an abortion clinic in England.

Twenty years apart two shocking stories bookend Ireland's soul-searching, denial and hysteria over an issue that continues to divide people (both north and south) not just into two neat camps - the anti-abortionists and the pro-choicers - but into myriad conflicting and complex positions.

There are people who are anti-abortion themselves but who believe others should have the choice. There are people who have no problem with early terminations but would like to see the time limit lowered. There are people who are totally anti-abortion in every circumstance, anti-contraception, anti-everything.

And then there are people - many of them in government north and south - who are just happy to export the problem. "Let them do it over there - saves us having to confront it here." But now the problem has come home again ...

What if Savita Halappanavar hadn't died? What if after the suffering she initially endured - a miscarriage drawn out over those three long, distressing days - she had recovered physically and been discharged from hospital?

Would we even have heard her name? Would we ever have found out about that gruesome three-day ordeal? How many other Savitas have there been?

The idea of a termination being withheld from a woman where the foetus is very, very obviously not viable seems inhuman.

But it's not the doctors and medical staff who are at fault. It's the lawmakers. North and south in Ireland abortion law has to be addressed.

It has to be confronted with all views taken into account and all eventualities examined with compassion but without the hysteria and above all, without the hypocrisy that the current shabby off-shore solution involves.

No more Xs. No more Savitas.

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