Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/743/15732

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 November 2012

Tragic death of Savita Halappanavar

Action needed to allow access to abortion in Ireland

Rita Harrold, Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) and pro-choice activist

On Sunday 28 October Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old woman from India, died in Galway University Hospital in Ireland. She had been admitted one week earlier with severe back pain. Savita was miscarrying and, with the neck of her womb open, doctors said there was no hope for the 17 week foetus. For three days Savita was in agony, she asked for a termination several times but this was denied due to the presence of a foetal heartbeat. Her husband Praveen says that they were told no, "this is a Catholic country."

When the foetal heartbeat did stop on 24 October, the foetus was removed. Unfortunately this was too late for Savita who had developed septicaemia. Her condition deteriorated rapidly and very tragically, she died.

A bill to improve access to abortion was put to the Dáil (Irish parliament) by the United Left Alliance and others earlier this year. But it was voted down by both government parties, including the Labour Party. Both the Prime Minister and Minister for Health have said that they will not be rushed to legislate in the wake of Savita's death.

Response

On Wednesday evening, less than 24 hours after the news of Savita's tragic death broke, 2,000 people assembled at a rally at the Dáil in Dublin. Smaller scale vigils and protests spontaneously occurred in cities around the country.

The tone of that rally was one of deep sadness at the unnecessary loss of life and decades old resentment and anger at the politicians who, because of their cowardice, lack of conviction and backward, outdated views, have let women in Ireland suffer.

Only three days later 20,000 took to the wet streets of the capital on Saturday 17 November, bearing banners saying "Never Again!" A further 1,500 attended a vigil in Galway and many more attended other events across the country and in London. The mood on the Dublin march was phenomenal with the clear message being sent to the government that inaction would no longer be tolerated.

It is not clear that legislating for the X case (see below) would have been enough to avoid this situation as the X case ruling only considers a woman's life to be grounds for termination, as opposed to her health. Savita suffered in agony for days. During this time it may not have been clear that her life was in danger.

The Socialist Party has demanded in the Dáil through our TD (MP) Joe Higgins, and at demonstrations, through our councillor Ruth Coppinger, a directive to be sent to all hospitals which would ensure that all requests for termination where a woman's life or health are at risk be met.

We have also called for immediate legislation that goes beyond the X case that ensures that a woman's health as well as her life are paramount in the care received, including terminations in public hospitals if needed.

We have highlighted the need for a separation of church and state, an end to church control of schools and hospitals and for the right to choose abortion for women in Ireland - a service which should be provided freely through the public health service.

Approximately eleven women a day are travelling from the south of Ireland to British abortion clinics. The absolute hypocrisy of denying the reality of Irish abortion is politically contemptible. Those with children and family commitments, migrant women without the right to travel and the young are punished for seeking an abortion while the wealthy have more options.


Build a movement

The Socialist Party is fighting for real choice for women - for access to free, safe and legal abortion and for the building of an anti-austerity, anti-capitalist movement that puts a socialist Ireland and Europe on the agenda. Only such a movement can ensure that the rights of women and the working class, the young, the poor, and all oppressed sections of society will no longer continue to be jeopardised by capitalism.

Socialist Party MEP for Dublin, Paul Murphy, has called an international day of action for Wedneday 21 November and led 53 MEPs to sign a letter to condemn the situation that allowed Savita to die. See socialistparty.net and socialistparty.org.uk for reports of the protests around the world, including in London.


Irish abortion law - the history

Ireland has notoriously strict abortion laws. The Offences Against the Persons Act from 1861 is still on the books, charging those "intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman... to be kept in penal servitude." In 1983 a clause was inserted into the constitution to balance the right to life of the "unborn child" with the equal right to life of the mother.

In 1991 student unions and their activists, including members of the Socialist Party, were banned from distributing information about obtaining abortions abroad. Various hotlines and information sharing services run by dedicated volunteers were constantly being shut down by police.


Case X

In 1992 the parents of a 14 year old rape victim contacted police about getting DNA evidence to help secure a conviction while she would obtain an abortion abroad. The attorney general got an injunction to prevent her from travelling abroad to access a termination.

There was an explosion of anger in society as people for the first time saw the real effect of restrictive abortion laws and thought that this could be their child, their friend. From school students to older workers, people took to the streets with the demand "Let her go!"

The wave of protests that followed forced the Supreme Court to rule that if there was a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the risk of suicide, as distinct from a risk to her health, a termination was lawful. This became known as the X case.

Two referenda followed to try to further restrict abortion law but both were defeated. In this way pressure from below and more open attitudes of ordinary people achieved the right to travel abroad to obtain an abortion and for information on foreign abortion services to be accessible in certain circumstances.

No legislation

In the 20 years that have followed, no legislation has been put in place to outline how the X case ruling should be applied by doctors. Since then the European court of human rights has made rulings against the state in cases where women's lives were at risk and abortions in Ireland were not available.


London protests: solidarity with struggle for abortion rights in Ireland

On Saturday 17 November, in solidarity with those protesting in Ireland, 70 people gathered on the steps of the Irish embassy in London. They held a minute's silence for Savita.

Speakers included a woman from a charity which helps women pay for flights to England and has seen a trebling of calls since it was launched.

Socialist Party member Helen Pattison was also on the platform. She spoke about how disgraceful the Irish Labour Party had been in voting against the bill for abortion rights in April of this year, and the hypocrisy of the main parties who call themselves 'pro-life' but are cutting vital services for children and families.

This followed a protest of 200 at the embassy three days earlier.

Women in Britain have access to abortion but this hard-won right must be extended and defended. Tory health minister Jeremy Hunt has expressed his desire to halve the legal time limit for abortions to 12 weeks. Notorious anti-choice activist and Tory MP Nadine Dorries has said she went on I'm a Celebrity in order to campaign to restrict the time limit. To give women real choice over when and whether to have children, the Socialist Party England and Wales calls for:

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 21 November 2012:


 

Home   |   The Socialist 21 November 2012   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  




Related links:

Abortion:

triangleFighting sexism, violence and capitalism - an international struggle

triangleTV review: Abortion on Trial - hard-hitting look at impact of 1967 act

triangleThem and us

triangle1967 Abortion Act reflected social changes

triangleCardiff Socialist Students confront 'Parasite' Jacob Rees-Mogg

Ireland:

triangleBrexit deal no solution to Tory rifts

triangleIrish capitalist state: rotten to the core

triangleIreland: dangerous ideas for the ruling class

triangleIreland: rail workers demand share of 'recovery'

Women:

triangleSocialist Party national women's meeting

triangleNottingham 'Reclaim the Night' march highlights cuts

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Women and Revolution

Health:

triangleSouth London health bosses' cover-up

triangleTotnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

13/12/17

Woolwich

Support the Crossrail Woolwich walkout

13/12/17

Devon

Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

13/12/17

Miners

Tory plan to hold dinner at coal mining museum defeated

13/12/17

Bradford

Bradford campaign to save children's services launched

13/12/17

Housing

Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

13/12/17

Fracking

Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

13/12/17

South London

South London health bosses' cover-up

13/12/17

Blacklisting

Unite day of action against blacklisting

13/12/17

Brighton

Brighton victory

13/12/17

Newham

Newham anti-academies strikes

13/12/17

Tamil Solidarity

Tamil Solidarity and Refugee Rights activists meeting

7/12/17

Blacklisting

Unite protest against blacklisting

7/12/17

RMT

Anti-DOO lobby of Liverpool's transport committee

6/12/17

Donald Trump

Mobilise to stop bigoted billionaire Donald Trump's state visit to Britain

6/12/17

Transport

Arriva bus strikers stand firm

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Dec Support the Crossrail Woolwich walkout

triangle8 Dec Local government pay: fight for the 5% claim, fully funded

triangle6 Dec Strikers rally in Liverpool

triangle6 Dec Corbyn's Labour can defeat Tories with socialist programme

triangle5 Dec Victory at Glenfield shows people power can save our NHS

triangle5 Dec Labour council Blairites deselected

triangle30 Nov Victory: Glenfield Children's Heart Centre saved!

More ...

triangle13 Dec Caerphilly Socialist Party: Are we heading for an era of war?

triangle14 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Universal Credit - the Tories' latest assault on the poor

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2