Dear Editor, Like many people in our country I was very upset and confused by the tragic death of a young mother, Savita Halappanavar, in a Galway Hospital. In an emotionally charged atmosphere it is difficult to sieve out the truth from all the commentaries and columns written about the tragedy. For me there was the unseemly emotional and knee jerk reaction of the media, the left and the pro-choice groups pushing their agendas.
I was hoping that somehow when the frenzy calmed I might get some guidance in deciding what might be the best path for our leaders to take to safeguard the lives of pregnant women in our country. A neighbour told me there was to be a gathering outside the Dáil on Tuesday 4th December. This prompted me to attend the vigil outside the Dáil to hear the pro-life position on the need to legislate or not.
I was hoping to get some balance on the argument. As the bus wound its way in bright winter sunshine along the M7 the countryside looked beautiful and serene. The lines From a distance there is harmony rang in my head but our country was not harmonious.
When we arrived in Kildare St. there were thousands already gathered along Molesworth St. and by 4.30 pm between 8 and 10 thousand people from all corners of the country faced Dáil Éireann. I saw friends and aquaintances from Kerry, Limerick, Kilkenny and Wexford which brought home to me the troubled nature of the decisions facing the nation. There was one very apt poster being displayed that showed a mother and child, two hearts and the caption “Love Them Both”. There were speakers from the pro-life movement including Caroline Simons and two young mothers who had faced difﬁcult pregnancies.
One mother had been told her baby would be unable to survive outside her womb. She carried the child to full term and valued every day of the pregnancy. She learned to delight in feeling her baby’s movements. This, she said, taught her to value each moment of every day. When her baby was born he lived for 17 minutes. In those minutes his parents held him, had him baptised and then let him go. She now realises that her decision to carry her child to birth was the right one because she has those loving memories of her son. If she had opted for a different solution she would have pain and guilt instead of loving, though sad, memories of her precious child.
The second mother to speak was told her child would have serious physically handicaps. She carried her child to birth and today he is 9 years old but is the person who shows her and the family members the joy of life. She admits the journey was not easy. She, her husband and other children had to cope with the handicap of her son and the demands of wheelchairs and all that goes with the caring that is necessary. Looking back she would not change anything even if she had the choice.
Caroline Simons symphatised with the Halappanavar family in their great loss. The death of a young woman like Savita is a great tragedy. Her death had disturbed and grieved the nation. Speaking about the push to legislate she said that Fine Gael did promise that they would not legislate for the X case and now it seems they will break that promise. The European Court did not specify that leglislation is necessary but it did ask that the situation be clariﬁed. At the moment the guidelines to doctors are that a pregnant woman should be given all medical treatment necessary even if that results in the death of her unborn child.
This, Caroline emphasised, is not abortion because the life of the child is not directly targeted. It is no coincidence that Ireland is one of the safest places on the planet for women to birth their children. Leglislation would not address every problem that could arise with difﬁcult pregnancies and would have to be changed over and over again as cases arose, eventually leading to abortion on demand. This was the case in England and now there are nearly 200,000 abortions in Britian every year. It has become so accepted there and in the US that many use abortion as a method of contraception. But each unborn child is a human being with potential not a potential human being as some would put it. To legislate would lead to abortion on demand even up to the ninth month of pregnancy, she said. We must all demand that Ireland be kept abortion free.
A young doctor spoke about how our respect for all life has led to the very excellent care for expectant mothers. The medical profession are pro-life, pro the mother’s life and pro the baby’s life. He asked us to let our T.D.s know that we want them to clarify the present practice for doctors but not to legislate.
Other speakers spoke about how one doctor had resigned from the expert group on abortion and that there was no medical representative on the panel for the ﬁnal report. One wonders how “expert” the group could be, she said.
It is regrettable that our national broadcaster gave so little coverage to the vigil. They had given much more coverage to the pro-choice march the week before, which was about half the number. In a democracy surely equal coverage by the media is the least we can expect. I, for one, will be calling for clariﬁcation of present medical practice but not legislation.