It’s time for us to “stop talking and legislate”, said an opinion piece by an Irish senator, who described the agonising death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland as a wake-up call.
Senator Ivana Bacik, in the strongly worded opinion piece in Irish Times , wrote that the news of Savita’s death in appalling circumstances is a wake-up call for legislators.
Ms. Halappanavar arrived on October 21 with back pain at Galway University Hospital, where she was found to be miscarrying at 17 weeks. Doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy and she died of septicaemia on October 28, sparking outrage in India and Ireland.
“No more inaction. For 20 years now the lives of Irish women have been put at risk by the failure of successive governments to legislate...,” Ms. Bacik said.
The heartbreaking account of Savita’s final days, “as expressed in the dignified words of her husband, has generated immense grief and outrage nationally. It has also generated a strong sense of shame. It is utterly shameful that our State could have failed a young woman and her family so tragically”.
The senator pointed out that the saddest and most shameful thing of all was that deaths of pregnant women in circumstances such as these were predictable once the 1983 amendment to the Constitution was passed, equating the right to life of the “unborn” with that of the pregnant woman.
Twenty years on, the amendment remains “bare of legislative direction”.
“For those 20 years the debate has been dominated by a group of highly vocal lobbyists, backed by the Catholic Church — the so-called pro-life campaign,” she wrote.
The senator stressed that it was time to confront discredited arguments.
“Time to face up to the bullying tactics of those who would seek to return us to a time when Catholic doctrine was enshrined in our law; and to acknowledge the disgraceful failure of our political system to acknowledge the pressing reproductive health needs of women...and women who have bravely gone public about their experience of fatal foetal abnormality.”
She went on to say that this week a stark lesson about the urgency of legislation had been learnt.
“Legislation is necessary to fulfil our international responsibilities, to provide clarity in our law and most importantly to prevent any further uncertainty for doctors. We need to give doctors clear instructions as to when the performance of necessary procedures, including abortion, may be carried out to save the lives of pregnant women.
“The courts have spoken. The people have spoken. A young woman has died tragically. It’s time for us to stop talking and legislate.”