Is Savita's death being used to advance a pro-abortion agenda in Ireland?
Anti-religious prejudice at heart of efforts to highlight tragedy of dead woman
Sometimes journalists here in Ireland are reminded that they are also human beings. Eight weeks ago we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl, our first child.
So when I read the tragic story about Savita Halappanavar my first reaction was human: A feeling of compassion and sadness that any family could so quickly go from the joy of expecting a child to the ashen grief of losing both mother and child. It is a transition too brutal for words.
As well as being human, I am also a radio presenter. In that capacity, another transition struck me: The transition from the feelings of sadness and shock that all of us felt on hearing the story to the reaction that some – those who appeared to know much more about the story than the rest of us – felt of righteous indignation, zeal and anger: According to that reaction, this was not just the death of a woman: This was a call to arms to legalise abortion right now.
Now while I do not necessarily share it myself, as a broadcaster I see and facilitate debate on the case for changing Ireland’s constitutional protection of unborn life. But I was deeply disturbed last week by the suddenness with which sensitive consideration of the facts of Savita’s death was swept aside in favour of a prejudicial and politically motivated narrative.
The facts are this: The coroner’s report into Savita’s death showed that she died in Galway’s University Hospital of Septicaemia about four weeks ago (why it took this long to report the death is unclear). She was pregnant at the time of the illness and Savita’s husband says the family had asked for an abortion only to be told – by whom is not clear – that “This is a catholic country” and that an abortion was therefore illegal even though, in this case, the unborn child was going to die anyway.
Read more news on Savita Halappanavar's case here
Allegedly – and that word must be stressed – the hospital waited until the baby’s heart had stopped beating before emptying Savita’s womb some days after which she died.
Reflected in news headlines like “Woman ‘denied a termination’ dies in hospital” – the assumption was relayed around the world that Savita was killed because she was denied anabortion by Ireland’s pro life legal regime. If only we Irish were not so “cruel” she might still be alive, so the narrative goes. Indians were also reported to be outraged at how one of their citizens died at the hands of Ireland’s “barbaric” laws.
Had Savita died for want of an abortion, those conclusions might be justified. But to paraphrase a saying about the media - that bad news has travelled around the world before good news has got its boots on - half baked assumptions and misperceptions can travel around the world twice before the facts have even gotten out of the shower.
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