A woman dies in a Galway hospital after a termination that may well have contributed to her death. Result: A twitter storm outrage, worldwide condemnation and calls for Ireland to scrap or change its regime of legal protection for unborn children.
Never mind that no evidence exists as yet as to what role, if any, Ireland’s anti abortion laws played in the death of Savita Halappanavar. Never mind the observation made in the Hindu Times last November by Dr. Fema Divakar (who as a woman, non catholic, and head of India’s Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, has more right than most to comment) that the delay in giving Savita an abortion was not only an unlikely cause of death, but that giving her the abortion earlier might have led to her dying earlier. And never mind that Ireland’s health services have been the subject of significant complaints and scandals regarding mismanagement, inefficiency and gross errors.
No, in the wake of Savita’s death, all fact, evidence and proportion – and any genuine concern for women (which would have awaited clear evidence on the cause of her death) – was swept aside in a torrent of politically directed bile against Ireland, its “catholic ethos” and its laws protecting unborn life.
But now the shallow hypocrisy of that reaction has been exposed. In a story covered in the Sligo Champion – but not (surprise, surprise) in the nation’s largely “liberal” national media – it was revealed that another Indian woman died in an Irish hospital two years before Savita.
Dhara Kivlehan died in a Belfast hospital some days after being transferred there having contracted an infection after giving birth in Sligo Regional Hospital. Her pregnancy had been healthy. Like Savita her death was tragic and perhaps needless.
Unlike Savita, however, there was no storm of outrage on twitter on her behalf, despite her death occurring two years before Savita’s. No front page headlines in the national newspapers.
And no international condemnation. But then, how could there be international media coverage when there was no national media coverage? And the reason there was no national media coverage proves conclusively what now most of us know and understand clearly about the media: Its clearly biased liberal agenda and its determination to decide what – and what isn’t – news depending on what suits the advancement or hinderment of that agenda. So you won’t find media telling you that Ireland is one of the safest places on earth to give birth.
Or that Savita Halapannavar is more likely to have died from aggravated infection than any lack of abortion. And you certainly won’t get any investigation into whether the cause of her death may have been the state of Ireland’s government owned health system. Where Savita’s death prompted three inquiries – the Coroner’s report, a report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and one headed by Dr. Sabaratnam Arulkumaran (who happens to be a leading advocate of abortion on demand on ”health” grounds) – Dhara Kivlehan’s family have so far been refused even a coroner’s inquiry.
Why? And why is the media not gripped in the paroxysm of outrage that followed Savita’s death? Was Dhara Kivlehan’s life not equal to Savita’s? Is her death any less traumatic for her family and baby son? Perhaps the reason for the difference in treatment is that Dhara’s death just doesn’t suit the narrative of the times.
For journalists too lazy or underresourced to get the truth – or too ideological to want to - the Catholic church is now a convenient “one size fits all" scapegoat. It – disgracefully – turned a blind eye to abuse and the revelations about its role in the notorious Magdalene laundries are a just reminder of that.
But journalism is about the truth, and guilt over one crime – which is a serious enough crime on its own – is no grounds on which to blame Ireland’s Catholicism for things it is not responsible for, such as the death of Savita.
The death of Dhara Kivlehan – an Indian like Savita – so close to her death underlines the complexity of both tragic deaths. It is a call for careful scrutiny and investigation of both cases and of other women who have died in these circumstances. For if the media and those claiming to have women’s interests most at heart are genuine, then they will want to avoid any such deaths in the future.
Sadly the concern doesn’t seem to be genuine. Does the fact that Dhara’s death could not be turned into a propaganda push for legalising abortion in Ireland means her death will not be investigated? Where is the outrage that accompanied Savita’s death? Or was that outrage just faux designer outrage?
In a few months, abortion will be legal in Ireland and those who exploited Savita’s death will no longer care about the fate of women like her. But at a terrible price. We will have wasted a chance to discover – and rectify - what really caused Savita’s and Dhara’s deaths. Because of that, it is no exaggeration therefore to say that because of the manner in which public anger has been misdirected and because of the incomplete coverage of women who die in Irish hospitals, that women are now being put at needless risk in Irish hospitals.
*Marc Coleman is a radio presenter and columnist. These views are given in his private capacity. www.marccoleman.ie @marcpcoleman