Savita Halappanavar, 31, was 17 weeks pregnant when she began to experience severe back pain. She was admitted to University Hospital Galway where she was told she was miscarrying. According to her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (via The Irish Times):
“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive.” The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the foetal heartbeat being checked several times a day.
But the next day, nothing had changed and Savita was now experiencing excruciating pain. When she asked for the failed pregnancy to be terminated, she was refused on the grounds that the fetus’ heartbeat was still detectable and, as a Catholic country, nothing could be done. Two days later, the heartbeat finally stopped and the hospital performed the procedure but it was too late. Savita died of septicaemia (blood poisoning) four days later on October 28.
What makes this relevant to the United States is that the law in Ireland is precisely the kind of law the GOP is hoping to put into effect here. Specifically, that abortion is illegal except where the life of the mother is in imminent danger (and maybe not even then, according to some Republicans). In fact, the Republican controlled Ohio legislature is in the process of reintroducing the not-so-affectionately termed “heartbeat bill” that would make abortion illegal if a fetal heartbeat is detectable.
Think about the “logic” behind denying Savita, and others like her, an abortion: the pregnancy is already doomed. The fetus is going to die and nothing can stop it. However, because of a religious belief in miracles, nothing can be done to protect the mother. And that’s really what the bottom line is: the premise that a miracle might occur at the last second to save both the mother and the fetus. There is no basis in medicine for allowing a miscarriage to go on for three days while the mother screams in pain unless one engages in wishful thinking. A stalled miscarriage can be extremely dangerous (obviously) and they do not magically reverse themselves. But a complete reversal of the laws of nature might occur any time now so let her suffer. The twisted morality involved in this “medical” decision is astonishing.
True, Savita’s life was not actually in “imminent” danger, but it was certainly in danger and there was no chance of saving the fetus. Still, the decision was made to let the mother suffer in agony and place her life in jeopardy just to give a dying fetus a few more days to exist. This is what it looks like when the rights of women are ignored. This is what happens when religion is used to make decisions it has no business making. This is the desired result of the GOP’s war on women and it cost Savita Halappanavar her life.