In the run up to the US elections, I missed a story from Ireland of Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old Irish dentist, who died on October 28 because a hospital refused her emergency request for an abortion to save her life.
The 31-year-old, who was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, died Oct. 28 one week after being hospitalized with severe pain at the start of a miscarriage. Her death, made public by her husband this week, has highlighted Ireland’s long struggle to come to grips with abortion.
Doctors refused her requests to remove the fetus until its heartbeat stopped four days after her hospitalization. Hours later she became critically ill and her organs began to fail. She died three days later from blood poisoning. Her widower and activists say she could have survived, and the spread of infection been stopped, had the fetus been removed sooner.
Ten days earlier, Republican Congressman Joe Walsh (since defeated) spoke out against “life of the mother” exception to total abortion bans because, as Walsh put it, “modern technology” makes it so that the life of the mother is no longer ever in danger from a pregnancy.
Walsh said he was against abortion “without exception,” including rape, incest and in cases in which the life or health of the mother was in jeopardy.
Asked by reporters after the debate if he was saying that it’s never medically necessary to conduct an abortion to save the life of a mother, Walsh responded, “Absolutely.”
“With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance,” he said. “… There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”
As the AP story in the Post points out, abortion is banned in the Irish constitution (the same brilliant idea Republicans would like to try here). The Irish Supreme Court found twenty years ago that an abortion could be permitted to save the life of the mother, but Ireland’s politicians have refused to enact legislation defining when exactly a hospital can conduct an abortion, so they don’t. And women die.
And lest anyone doubt the Republican’s party’s extremism, the GOP called in their platform this year for the exact same rule of law on abortion that they have in Ireland – well, and even less, since the Republicans didn’t even mention the life of the mother:
Even as the Republican establishment continued to call for Representative Todd Akin of Missouri to drop out of his Senate race because of his comments on rape and abortion, Republicans approved platform language on Tuesday calling for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion with no explicit exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
The anti-abortion plank, approved by the Republican platform committee Tuesday morning in Tampa, Fla., was similar to the planks Republicans have included in their recent party platforms, which also called for a constitutional ban on abortions.