Ireland has a law that kills women

It is expected that on May the 25th the Irish people will be asked if they wish to repeal the 8th amendment, or Article 40.3.3 in which, “The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’

In essence this law equates the life of the pregnant person with the blastocyst, embryo or fetus — regardless of which stage the pregnancy is at. So the life of the person who is pregnant is legally considered to be of much value with something like the picture below, a gestational sac at 5 weeks gestation.

We now know that women have died as a result of the 8th amendment. We also know that some of the women who have died were in the midst of a much-wanted pregnancy.

Chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Peter Boylan stated that the 8th amendment had caused “grave harm to women, including death” in two cases he was aware of, Miss P and Savita Halappanarvar.

In 2010 Michelle Harte was advised by doctors treating her for cancer at Cork University Hospital to terminate the pregnancy, because of the risks to her health. The hospital’s ethics forum took 2 weeks to decide not to allow her to have an abortion, saying her life was not under ‘ immediate threat.’

It took Michelle a further three weeks to make travel arrangements to have an abortion in the UK as she had to arrange a passport.

“Getting to London proved very stressful, as she was very ill. She had to be helped on to the aircraft due to her deteriorating condition.”

Due to her pregnancy the hospital refused to treat her cancer and during the pregnancy her cancer became much more aggressive and spread to her brain. Michelle died a few months later.

Louise Kenny, a professor of obstetrics, a consultant obstetrician and a gynaecologist was Michelle’s Doctor. Prof Kenny said,

“It is an outrageous lie to say that the eighth has never changed medical management or adversely affected the outcome of a woman with cancer,”
“It is a fact that the Eight Amendment casts a shadow over the care of every woman of reproductive age with complex medical needs in this State.”

Prof Kenny also said Michelle was keen to inform the public about the harm the 8th amendment causes women,

“When Michelle returned she gave numerous press interviews, despite being so sick. She was determined that her story be heard and that the effect the Eighth Amendment has on women’s health be fully understood.”

The master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Prof Fergal Malone, said that one of his patients died following “a complication from a surgical termination of pregnancy while travelling between Ireland and a centre abroad.”

His patient had been given a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality and had travelled to the UK to access a termination. She bled to death in a taxi. Prof Malone also said that it is likely we would have seen more abortion related fatalities if Ireland wasn’t so close to the UK.

We do not know if more women have died as a result of the 8th amendment, as accurate records of maternal deaths are not kept, nor do we know how many pregnant women took their own lives. Maternal deaths in Ireland are not routinely investigated via an inquest. Between 2011 and 2013 there were at least 27 maternal deaths and of these only 3 were granted an inquest. Most inquests have to be fought for by the family of the dead woman. It seems that Irish state bodies largely do not care to know why the women in their care are dying.

A.I.M.S Ireland are a grassroots association created to improve maternity services in Ireland. A.I.M.S say that “CSO figures for maternal death of 3 per 100,000 are inaccurate and under-reported. More accurate figures, using a more appropriate, broader classification system on par with other EU countries, show a very different story.”

Dutch human rights researcher and lecturer Fleur van Leeuwen said that the idea that Ireland was the safest place to have a baby could be “seriously contested” and that Ireland was in breach of its international obligations due to the failure to ensure mandatory inquests for maternal deaths. Maternity cases involving serious injury and death cost the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) paid 66 million euro in legal fees between 2007 and 2015.

With approximately 5 women a day taking abortion pills at home it is only a matter of time before someone else dies.

Having an abortion in Ireland is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment for both the person who has an abortion and anyone who helps them. The criminalising factor can cause women to be reluctant to seek medical help and attention when something goes wrong after taking the abortion pills, (which it should be added are 14 times safer than pregnancy and are considered to be very safe medication).

In 2015 leading figures in the Irish medical community added their names to an open letter to the government calling for the decriminalisation of abortion.

“The criminalisation of abortion prevents healthcare providers from delivering timely, medically indicated care in accordance with their patients’ wishes,” the letter said.

838 doctors from 44 countries signed the open letter condemning the criminalisation of abortion.

We KNOW that the 8th amendment has caused the death of several women. These women died because Irish law allowed them to die rather than access essential healthcare and an abortion in their home country.

Ireland has a long history of subjugating women and their rights. In May the Irish people have the opportunity to right one of the many wrongs done to Irish women. Do the majority want to retain a law that doesn’t mind if women die as long as she can’t have an abortion? Or have we moved past controlling women’s lives and sexuality — to a society that values the life of a women over a blastocyst? One thing is for sure, it is not truthful to say the 8th amendment is about “saving lives”, when we know that women are dead because of it.

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