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The Case of Savita: Important Articles to Review

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.

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uOttawa Students For Life: Would Outlawing Abortion Endanger Women’s Lives?

This post was written for uOttawa Students For Life by uOttawa Students For Life. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Not according to the evidence:

A peer-reviewed study published last week examines 50 years of data and concludes that the trajectory of maternal mortality in the South American country has consistently declined, decreasing from 293.7 in 1957 to 18.2 in 2007 (per 100,000 live births). That’s a decrease of 93.8%, which constitutes a major success story measured in women’s lives.

Yet Chile outlawed abortion in 1989.

Chile didn’t just place small restrictions on abortion — it outlawed abortion without exception, including in instances of rape or for the health of the mother. And since many neighbouring countries also restrict abortion, there’s no real reason to believe Chilean women are travelling outside Chile to get abortions.

Even so, maternal mortality continued to decline after the abortion ban, including deaths related to abortion.


Read the comments at the uOttawa Students For Life website.

From the IMFC: 10 Questions about Bill C-510

For your general information:

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada has put out the below Q & A sheet to help people understand Roxanne’s Law, or Bill C-510.

Ten questions about Bill C-510

Life is busy. A cheat sheet to understand the basics about one bill being discussed on Parliament Hill

By Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research and Communications, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

1. What is Bill C-510? 

Bill C-510 is a private member’s bill that aims to add coercing or attempting to coerce to have an abortion as an offence to the criminal code. 

2. Why is it also called Roxanne’s Law?

Bill C-510 is named after Roxanne Fernando, a Manitoba woman whose boyfriend viciously beat her and left her in a snow bank to die because she would not have an abortion. She died in 2007 at age 24. 

3. Why do we need this bill?

In Canada today, we overwhelmingly sanction and support the abortion choice in the following ways: the legal void on abortion, meaning that a woman can freely obtain an abortion for all nine months of her pregnancy, private abortion clinics funded by taxpayers, “bubble zone” laws around clinics, which force protestors to keep a distance, public funding for Planned Parenthood, among others. This bill offers support for women who want to keep a pregnancy to term in face of intimidation and violence. 

The bill also identifies  threatening a pregnant woman as a unique form of intimidation, one we should expressly identify is wrong. Faye Sonier, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada explains in one media interview: “You could compare, for example, to the crime of assault. In the criminal code it’s broad; it includes all forms of assault. So one could easily ask why do we have a section dealing with assault with a weapon, or sexual assault or aggravated assault? It’s because the legislator and Canadians want to single out some crimes as being specifically worthy of condemnation. So for this case we want to make it clear that it is wrong to try and force a woman into aborting a child she wants to keep.” 

4. Who brought it forward?

This bill was brought forward by Conservative Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, Rod Bruinooge. He is also chair of the parliamentary pro-life caucus. Mr. Bruinooge does not have the support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Bill C-510.

5. What is a private member’s bill? 

A private member’s bill is a piece of draft legislation brought forward by a Member of Parliament who is not a Minister of the Crown or a parliamentary secretary. The order in which they are debated is subject to a random lottery. Following introduction in the House of Commons, there are two hours of debate on two separate occasions and then a vote. If the vote passes, the bill progresses to the committee stage where it is studied and changes are suggested. Once through the committee stage, the bill returns to the House of Commons for a final vote. It is then introduced in the Senate. 

6. What stage is Bill C-510 at?

It has just had its first hour of debate in the House of Commons on November 1, 2010. The second hour of debate will likely be December 6 or 7, followed by the Second Reading vote on December 8. If it passed on December 8, it would go to committee. 

7. Is there precedence for Bill C-510?

Germany, Italy, France and 13 U.S. states have similar laws.  

8. What chances does this bill have of becoming law?

There’s no real way of gauging this and support or opposition shouldn’t be based on a preconceived idea of whether the bill will pass or not. Historically, private member’s bills have had a harder time passing into law than other bills. 

9. What is accomplished if Bill C-510 doesn’t pass?

First of all, it honours the victim of a terrible crime, Roxanne Fernando. Were it not for Bill C-510, many of us would not have heard of her. Secondly, it raises the point that pregnant women can be more vulnerable, and may need additional protection be it under or outside the law. Thirdly, it raises the issue of how to protect pregnant women—a positive framing of a question we hear less and less. Finally, this bill is generating public discussion on abortion. 

10. What are possible areas of opposition? 

Some (those who are pro-abortion) have expressed concern that this bill is intended to be a first step in recriminalizing abortion. 

Others are concerned the language in the bill is too vague, and that it would be too difficult to enforce, also that our criminal code already has provisions to deal with intimidation.

Still others (those who are pro-life) are concerned about section four in the bill, which expressly states that the bill does not apply to doctors who counsel women to have an abortion to save their health or life. “This section does not apply in the case of a physician who attempts to convince a pregnant female person to have a medical intervention that results, or may result, in the death of the child when, in the physician’s best medical judgment, that medical intervention is necessary to avoid a serious threat to the female person’s physical health.”

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Roxanne’s Law: The First Debate

By Garnet Van Popta

Garnet Van Popta is an alumnus of uOttawa Students For Life and a guest blogger for NCLN.  He is currently studying at Humber College.

Yesterday, November 1st, Bill C-510, Roxanne’s Law was debated in Parliament.  The bill had its second reading, and the debate was on the topic of whether or not the bill should be “sent to committee” where it will be tweaked and adjusted before a third reading in the House of Commons.  The actual vote to decide whether it will go to committee is scheduled for early December.

MP Rod Bruinooge spoke first.  He told Roxanne’s story (which you can learn more about at roxanneslaw.ca), and explained why this bill is needed in Canada.  He said,

“Bill C-510 would communicate to all Canadians that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong and unacceptable in a nation that values compassion, justice and human rights.

Roxanne’s Law would not affect women’s access to abortion in any way. With this law in place, Canada will continue to have no legal restrictions on the procedure permitted in all nine months of pregnancy. However, for those women who choose to have their baby, this law would give them added protection to fulfil their hopes and dreams of having a family.”

Conservative MP David Anderson spoke briefly, asking for clarification on whether the bill will restrict state coercion or personal coercion.  MP Bruinooge replied that the bill dealt with personal coercion.

Next, Bloc MP Nicole Demers spoke against the bill. According to her, the abortion debate is over (a line I’ve heard a few too many times).

“They can try to dress this bill up and manipulate people in all kinds of ways, but the fact is that it would restrict access to freedom of choice. That debate is over. We do not need to talk about it again. It was clear last year when we debated maternal and child health.”

Wait a minute.  The debate on maternal health last year proved the abortion debate was over?  Didn’t Parliament decide not to fund abortion overseas? I would argue that this proved the abortion debate was (and is) not over.

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen argued next that this bill is another anti-women initiative by the “Harper Conservatives”.

“Bill C-510 will do nothing to reduce violence against women. Like the other anti-choice private members’ bills introduced by government backbenchers, it is a Trojan Horse.”

The reason MP Mathyssen believes this is because the bill refers to an unborn child as a child, not a fetus.  This, according to Mathyssen, translates into fetal rights and infringes on the rights of women (quite a leap, according to my thinking).  MP Bruinooge pointed out in his introductory speech that using the word “child” is consistent with the rest of the Criminal Code, in which the word “fetus” does not occur.  This would be something, according to Bruinooge, that could be addressed by the committee.

Conservative MP Daniel Petit spoke against the bill because, according to him, it does not define some terms well enough, and is too vague.

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings also opposed the bill because of a perceived redundancy.  According to Jennings, coercion is already prohibited by law, and therefore another bill is unnecessary.

Another MP, NDP Jean Crowder, was basically a mouthpiece for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC).  Almost her entire speech was made up of quotes from press releases of the ARCC.  Take a look at this quote:

“The right to autonomy includes both a woman’s right to choose to have children and a woman’s right to choose not to have children. In both circumstances, we would look to the state to provide the tools and resources to support women in their decisions.”

This seems to argue in favour of Bill C-510.  Roxanne’s Law would certainly be a tool of the state to support women in their making of autonomous decisions.  It’s really quite clear.  Crowder outlines several reasons, as taken from an ARCC press release, why this bill is not needed.  One reason is as follows:

“…counsellors already screen for possible coercion in women seeking abortion. Clinics do not perform abortions on women who are conflicted or being coerced. That protection is already in place.”

I find it hard to believe that the ARCC and MP Jean Crowder say this.  Even if women are not often coerced into having an abortion, one cannot say it never happens, as Crowder does here.  As Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada as well as a blogger at ProWomanProLife.orgwrites in the Calgary Herald,

“There are even those who report similar stories from the pro-choice side. Antichoice is anti-awesome is the blog of a volunteer co-ordinator at an abortion clinic in New Brunswick. In February 2010, she wrote about a woman who was being forced to abort by her parents. ‘The patient clearly did not want to have an abortion; while in to have her ultrasound she freaked out about the finger prick test, and then told the nurse, her mother and anyone who would listen that it was a blessing to be pregnant, a beautiful gift from God,’ she writes.”

Coerced abortion does happen, and that is why Bill C-510 is needed.  I am glad Conservative MP Kelly Block spoke last, since she accurately described the purpose of the proposed law:

“When enacted into law, Bill C-510 will send a clear message that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong. It will send a message to women that the law is there to protect them, so that if someone attempts to coerce a woman to have an abortion she does not want, she can press charges before it is too late for her and her baby.”

I would like to end by quoting Andrea Mrozek again.  I believe her article, “An abortion law we can all choose to support” (Calgary Herald, Nov. 2, 2010) very accurately frames this issue.  I especially like her last two paragraphs:

“Many women who experience an unplanned pregnancy would keep the child if they thought they had support — physical, financial or emotional. And all too often that is absent. ‘It’s your choice,’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t care.’

No law can prevent the myriad soft coercions that push a woman toward abortion. But Roxanne’s Law is a small voice empowering at least some women who, in the face of overwhelming odds and even violence, choose to say no. That’s a choice we can all support.”


All quotations from the debate taken from a transcript of the debate on OpenParliament.ca.

N.B.  The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

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