On Savita

By now many of you have heard about Savita Halappavanar, a woman living in Ireland who was miscarrying (but the fetus wasn’t dead) and came to a hospital asking for abortion services (as she was miscarrying and in pain and leaking amniotic fluid, with a dilated cervix) and she was denied that service as the fetus had a heartbeat and the hospital followed Catholic policy.

She died. Horribly.

Salon wrote about the story here, if you haven’t heard much about it, and I encourage you to read the whole story.

I’ll say it again, she died, horribly and uselessly. The fetus was dying, not viable, not going to live. They refused treatment due to religion (and a bureaucratic and dogmatic structure) and a woman died, as her husband watched helplessly and I see nothing holy about that.

I know all the arguments-natural law, the woman had the chance to be “saved” where the child did not… Amanda Marcotte has an excellent article up about the subject where she includes some comments from Lawyers, Guns, and Money that are supposed to clarify that it isn’t misogyny and control over women as resources that lead to this kind of issue, but ethics and how they fail in bad circumstances. Which are, in my opinion (and in the opinion of other commenters at LGM) a big fat fail.

Let’s talk ethics. I can’t understand how a human being, a doctor for goodness sake, could allow him or herself to watch the abject suffering of a woman, dying in fever and septicemia (not to mention the agony of a husband losing not only a child they wanted but his beloved wife) and not stepping in when they have the skills to stop the suffering and to heal her. Just allowing her to die.

I don’t understand. I see no compassion there. No empathy. No holiness in a belief that places dogma over real people in real circumstances. This is doing harm, something doctors are supposed to take an oath against. I suspect it was yes, a belief in a dogma that places women in the role of vessel, not agent, but that many in that hospital wanted to act but didn’t act out of fear of reprisal, of firing, of excommunication.

If I were a doctor, even if I thought my soul was at risk, I hope I would act to save that woman, the living vital woman in front of me. The one with 31 years of life and experience and friends and family. The one with a husband begging for someone to intercede. The one who had the chance to live and connect and continue to be a force of good in the world.

I hope I would make that sacrifice of myself for them, because I figure I would rather take my chances dealing with some Force after death and laying out my case that my skills to heal were needed and that that woman was worth saving, worth living. I’d much rather have that conversation with God than to live with the guilt of watching someone die based on my inaction. To me, that would be Hell.

This does not seem pro life to me, nor does it to others in the ministry. Life is what is happening now. We are what is happening now. We are all that we have and if there is a godforce, I feel convinced it is in US, now, alive, in how we treat each other.

Savita was alive and she deserved treatment and care. Her fetus was dying, and nothing a doctor could do could change that.

But the doctors could have saved Savita. They didn’t, and the reason they didn’t?

Is wrong. I don’t think I can be convinced otherwise.



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3 responses to “On Savita

  1. mrsbachelorgirl

    This is a very interesting topic, Julie, and it raises some moral, ethical and religious questions that need to be addressed.

    I, for one, think there must be more to this story. There’s a big (medical) difference between performing an abortion and inducing labor in a situation where it’s clear the fetus won’t survive, and in the article you linked to, there’s no explanation of what, if any, other procedures were performed or offered to Savita (they only say that she repeatedly asked for abortive services). As you know, I am a devout Catholic, and I delivered my daughter in a Catholic hospital. Being, as I am, familiar with Catholic hospitals, I know that when pregnant women in distress come in, they don’t just stand around and do nothing. They’re not going to perform an abortion if you ask them to, but they’re also not going to just stand around and watch you die, and they’re sure as hell not going to just let a baby die. Regardless of how anyone feels about the Catholic Church, everybody who knows anything about them knows that pregnant women and babies are pretty much Priority One, especially in their hospitals. Granted, my own situation was completely different, as I gave birth to a healthy baby who was very, very, VERY wanted, but I can’t see any reasonable doctor, including a Catholic one, allowing a patient to die in agony without ANY medical intervention whatsoever, at least not in this country (and maybe that’s the difference, that this took place in Ireland and not the U.S.). Again, not saying this didn’t happen or even that it didn’t happen the way they say it did, just that I’m not satisfied that we know the whole story. And I don’t think the media should demonize anyone without knowing and telling the whole story.

    “We are all that we have and if there is a godforce, I feel convinced it is in US, now, alive, in how we treat each other.” That is one thing we most certainly DO agree on!

  2. Pingback: Hope and Fear | Julie Gillis

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