I can’t help but feel like I am living witness to history today. I am hopeful that May 25th 2018 will be remembered as a day that liberated the women of Ireland from the criminalisation they face if illegally opting for an abortion, the lies they have to tell on making their trips overseas and the shame they have to hide on their return.
Voting yes to decriminalise abortion in Ireland is not a vote in support of the practice, it doesn’t make you pro-choice, if anything it falls in with the ethics behind ‘pro-life’.
Five years ago, a woman called Savita Halappanavar visited a hospital in Galway, Ireland, at 17 weeks pregnant complaining of back pain. Within hours of her visit to the hospital, it was concluded that Savita would miscarry her unborn child, despite there being a heartbeat. Savita was told there was a potential for infection due to the complications, and requested if the miscarriage could be medically induced. Under current Irish law, if there is no risk to the life of the mother, medically induced miscarriages (more commonly known as abortions) are illegal whilst there is still a foetal heartbeat.
Almost a week after being admitted to hospital, Savita passed away after contracting an infection and later falling into septic shock. Savita was told on the twenty-first of October that she would lose her unborn child, and was made to continue with that pregnancy until the 24th of that month, having a natural miscarriage that caused her death.
Savita’s death spiralled the conversation to Repeal the 8th. If Savita was granted a termination, then there would only have been one life lost that day, not two.
Irish Catholicism and anti-abortion campaigners/believers fail to take into consideration the safety of a woman like Savita. They believe that with abortion, comes liberation, comes a disrespect to unborn lives. To vote against legalising abortion is to vote against allowing a woman to live. This law doesn’t prevent women from seeking terminations, for thousands of years women have been terminating unwanted pregnancies, many of these ending in the death of both mother and foetus.
Savita’s death wasn’t in vain. I am in absolute awe at the sheer number of women travelling home to Ireland today to vote Yes. I have never witnessed solidarity and camaraderie quite like it. Whatever the verdict of today, women have made a change, as we celebrate the centenary of female suffrage this year, Irish women are proving today that their voice matters and it will be heard.