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Ireland repeals one of its most restrictive laws on abortion, thereby standing up against the age old Catholic norms. It was the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian emigrant that led to a ‘quiet revolution’. It is indeed a historical day for women in Ireland – and around the world.
In a historic referendum on Friday, Irish people went to polls to decide whether they should continue the archaic ban on abortions or not. The nation voted to scrap the prohibition by a margin of two is to one. All but one of the forty constituencies of Ireland voted ‘Yes’ in favour of repeal.
It all began in 2012, when an Indian emigrant dentist, 31 year old Savita Halappanvar had a miscarriage and the refusal to abort the foetus caused sepsis and her death. Savita did not get enough time to travel to India where abortion was legalised in 1971. It made the nation question the age-old Catholic influenced policies of prohibition.
Ireland gained freedom from British rule in 1922 and the new government was cash deficient. The richest organisation was the church and it looked after the education and healthcare system. The government decided to let them continue and it meant they ran it according to their catholic values.
The church attributes the right to life to the unborn child. The mother’s decision to abort violates this right. Unless the foetus is confirmed dead due to natural causes, the D&C is not permitted. Often it happens only after significant damage to mother’s health. The law also results in unwanted births, children with congenital diseases and maternal mortality.
The church considers that legalizing abortion would result in indiscriminate killing and ‘immoral behavior’ in young women. They are not willing to acknowledge that online abortion drug availability, covert unsafe abortions and travelling to Britain to seek safe abortion are already happening. In fact the orthodox policies cause significant morbidity because women are forced to try unsafe alternatives. Children are many a times orphaned when the mother dies in later pregnancies or when the foetus is abandoned soon after a covert delivery.
It is definitely a mother’s right to choose if she is willing or not, to carry the pregnancy to full term and commit herself to the responsibility of raising a child. This debate has made Irish women to come out in the open and talk about their abortion experiences. It has caused the nation to get up and take notice of the need and vote for it.
The new legislation will now be soon drafted by the government of Prime minister Leo Varadkar to legalise abortion with no restrictions up to 12 weeks in to the pregnancy. It is a new milestone for the country of 4.8 million people.
The church took a backseat during this process because they also suffered a loss of face when a series of child sex abuse cases by the clergy were unearthed in the eighties. On Sunday, churches across the country expressed regret at the decision and vowed a renewed commitment to right to live.
Sunday was also witness to visits of hundreds of Irish people at Savita Halappanavar’s memorial. They deposited flowers and messages paying their homage to her.
There were messages which read:
‘I am so sorry this happened to you before the country woke up.’
‘I am so sorry we let you down. It won’t go in vain.’
Savita lost her life but she sparked a fire that engulfed the insensitive law and changed the life of Irish women forever. She was an Indian, who changed the destiny of women in a land she made her home. It is likely that the law itself would be called ‘Savita’s law’ and rightly so as she was the one who was a catalyst in bringing forth the sorry state of women in Ireland, who could not make decisions and stand for what is right.
Image Source: Naomi O’ Leary/ Twitter
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