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The tragic case of Savita Halappanavar has stunned Ireland and reverberated around the globe. No one can fail to be moved by the tragic case of a young woman dying in pregnancy leaving behind her heartbroken husband.
Little is known about the facts surrounding the case. This has not stopped a rush to judgement with many people feeling that the case proves why Ireland must immediately introduce abortion legislation when this case is about miscarriage and not abortion.
Catholicism has also been thrust centre-stage with the claim that Mrs Halappanavar’s husband was told nothing could be done for his wife since Ireland is a “Catholic country”.
An inquiry is ongoing, and we do not know why Savita Halappanavar did not receive treatment that would have saved her life.
However, what is clear, despite attempts by some to muddy the waters, is that a pregnant woman in Ireland can and should receive all necessary medical treatment to save her life, even if this results in the unintentional and unavoidable death of her unborn child. This is not abortion, which is the intentional direct targeting of the child in the womb, but necessary medical intervention.
This is a position entirely consistent with Catholic bioethics as articulated by the country’s bishops this week.
It is wrong to seek to blame Catholic teaching for this tragedy when it is clear Catholic teaching would have allowed an intervention, even if this resulted in the death of the child.
Likewise, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, head of the Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin, has said he sees no evidence of confusion in Irish medical ranks over whether or not a woman can have a termination if her life is at risk.
The case of Savita Halappanavar has understandably and correctly stirred great emotion and an outpouring of ‘never again’. But this is being cynically manipulated by some on the pro-abortion side who are determined to use the tragic death of Mrs Halappanavar to push their own agenda: the introduction of abortion in Ireland. Tellingly, this is despite the fact that an international symposium held in Dublin earlier this year on maternal health reaffirmed that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a mother.
Ironically, the fact that there is such an outcry is due in large part to the fact that deaths in pregnancy in Ireland are so rare.
Ireland, without abortion, is one of the safest countries in the world in which to be pregnant and give birth: safer than countries like Holland and Britain where abortion is legal.
Mrs Halappanavar should not have died. This must never be allowed to happen again. But, nor should her death be used as a vehicle to introduce abortion in Ireland when it is clear that the absence of abortion legislation did not lead to her death.
It would indeed be a tragic irony if, weeks after a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of children, the most vulnerable of all children: the unborn, were to be targeted.