On the 28th of October, a woman died in this country because she was refused an abortion. She was 31 years old.
Savita Praveen first presented at University College Hospital, Galway on Sunday October 21st at 17 weeks pregnant, suffering from severe cramps. After being examined, she was told on Sunday evening that the foetus would not survive, and that no treatment could save it. The foetal heartbeat, however, was still present.At this stage, Savita’s waters had broken, which left her at serious risk of infection. On Monday 22nd October Savita was told again that the foetus would not survive. She now requested an abortion. Doctors refused to carry out the procedure. Later that evening, according to her friends, she again ‘begged’ for an abortion to be performed. Again she was refused. According to her friends, one of the reasons given for refusing her the procedure was that Ireland “is a Catholic country”.
On Tuesday 23rd October Savita developed septicaemia.
On Wednesday 24th October the foetal heartbeat could no longer be detected. Only at this stage was Savita brought to the theatre to have the foetus removed. After the procedure she was brought straight to the intensive care unit.
Her condition never improved. Four days later, on the 28thof October, tragically and needlessly, Savita died.
Still proud to be Irish? Where we have Irish solutions to Irish problems, where over 4,000 Irish women who need an abortion every year obligingly ship themselves off to England and keep quiet about it after they come back? How very convenient for the rest of us. Ireland is still officially a cosy, Catholic, abortion-free country, but we all know that if anyone really needs an abortion, sure they can just hop on a plane. Can’t they?
Tragically for herself, her husband, her family and friends, Savita could not just get on a plane. By the time she found out she needed an abortion it was far too late for that. What makes her story so terrifying is that it could happen to absolutely any woman of childbearing age living in Ireland. Savita was only 17 weeks pregnant when she found herself in the impossible situation of needing an abortion in Ireland and being unable to travel.
If you are a woman in this country and you get pregnant, you no longer get to decide what happens to your body. The State does. When Savita was pregnant, needed an abortion, and actually begged to be given an abortion, the State, through the medium of medical personnel in University College Hospital Galway, said no. Such a decision could only be made in a country where women are viewed not as autonomous human beings with the right to decide what happens to their bodies, but as living incubators.
There are only two possible responses to this realisation – fear or rage. We have been afraid long enough in this country. We have quietly tolerated the cowardice and craven self-interest of our politicians for long enough. Now is the time to demand what is ours by right – control over our own bodies. We need to make sure that what happened to Savita Praveen will never again happen to another woman in Ireland. Now is the time to fight.