The tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland has caught the world’s attention. Pro-choicers allege that Savita was a victim of Ireland’s laws against abortion and that these laws must be changed allow for legalized abortion.
As campus pro-life leaders, we have addressed questions from our peers including “what if the woman’s life is in danger?” But we probably haven’t had to respond to a specific situation like that of Savita’s. But unless you live within a very secure pro-life bubble (or a bubble that is cut off from newspapers and the internet), you will mostly likely have to respond to this situation. Does Savita’s tragic death illustrate why legal abortion is necessary? Should Ireland ‘liberalize’ their abortion laws?
The following are excerpts from a few must-read articles. Each analysis should be read in its entirety to better understand the facts and how we should respond to them:
MaterCare International, a group of obstetricians and gynaecologists dedicated to “improving the lives and health of mothers and babies both born and unborn,” has analyzed the situation.
“With the exception of the rare and tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, Ireland’s practice of maternal medicine has been impeccable in recent decades. Ireland, along with other countries where abortion is not permitted by law, boasts one of the lowest maternal mortality ratios in the world. It ranks sixth lowest in the world for its maternal death ratio (5.7 per 100,000 live births), thus making it one of one of the safest places in the world for women to deliver their children. To dramatically alter these successful medical practices medical in order to cater to boisterous and uneducated lobbying would be a mistake.
For many obstetricians, a maternal death resulting from a direct obstetrical cause, such as in the case of a septic miscarriage, is an extremely rare event which legalizing abortion will not prevent. What will prevent these deaths is intensive obstetrical care, provided with the intention of saving both lives.”
Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research and Communications for the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, writes in an op-ed for the National Post:
Pro-choicers have long held that maternal mortality rises without abortion. Yet the record shows that Canadian maternal mortality declined precipitously prior to the legalization of abortion in Canada. Canadian abortion laws began to open up in 1969 and abortion became available on demand without any restriction after the 1988 R. v. Morgentaler decision.
This shows abortion does not save women’s lives, but good medical care does. Ireland’s own statistics reflect this truth. The United Nation’s 2005 report on maternal mortality found Ireland has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, despite largely banning abortion procedures.
We do know that Savita was 17 weeks pregnant. Had she had an abortion, it would have been a more complicated one. Abortions get more dangerous as the number of weeks progress. Second trimester abortions may involve the use of forceps to remove dismembered body parts. This is not a faceless mass-precisely because by this point ears, eyes and eyelashes are developing, as are major body systems.
A truly interested person might ask questions around the nature of Savita’s sickness, and whether the miscarriage was the prime culprit in her death. We don’t know whether she received antibiotics, how much or when. Without the right dosage of antibiotics, an abortion might just as likely have resulted in sepsis and death.
Stephanie Gray, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, writes:
So instead of jumping to the conclusions that Halappanavar needed an abortion and that Ireland needs to legalize the killing of the youngest of its kind, the reasonable approach would be to get to the bottom of what Halappanavar’s condition was and examine how it was, or was not, responded to. We have yet to hear from the hospital and the medical professionals involved as to what precisely happened, but with this report of her dying from E. coli ESBL one wonders how killing Halappanavar’s baby Prasa would have killed the E. coli.
And yet, The Toronto Star would have you believe, “There’s a very simple reason why Savita died. It’s because she wasn’t listened to.” On the contrary, much more needs to be known about how she died. But what we do know is that jumping to the conclusion that abortion should be legalized in Ireland overlooks the underlying medical condition and makes the dangerous assumption that we need to kill one person to save another.
Ireland’s Youth Defence has reported on what Irish Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have to say about women’s health and abortion in their country.
Dr John Monaghan on Newstalk: The whole thing has become very inflamed. We cannot at this stage judge what the true medical facts were. I cannot see how legislation would have influenced this particular scenario. In the light of the [Medical Council] guidelines I quoted to you a few minutes ago, it would be legitimate under the current regulation that a doctor would intervene to deliver the baby in the situation where the mother has become septic. To me as a clinician that would fit in with those guidelines. So I am not sure how legislation could deal with this particular case as I understand it.