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.