Welcome to another Weekly Roundup, where each week our MediaWatch team highlights how abortion is discussed in the media at home and abroad. This week saw a new report into Savita Halappanavar’s death, two cases of women having been given fatal foetal diagnoses in Northern Ireland and then being obliged to travel in order to access abortion services, and renewed calls in the Republic for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Overseas, a teenage girl in the US has had her right to an abortion denied by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the lamentable death of Savita Halappanavar. In our focus on legislation, referenda and reports – it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that this very public tragedy is also a very private one. The Irish Independent reminds us that although Praveen Halappanavar has become a public figure, he is in fact a young engineer faced with constant reminders of the death of his wife.
This week saw the publication of a 250 page report from the Health Information and Quality Agency (HIQA) into Savita’s death. According to the Irish Times, this report showed “13 missed opportunities that, had they been identified and acted upon, could have resulted in a different outcome for Ms Halappanavar”. RTE reports that Health Minister James Reilly found the report “disturbing”, and that its recommendations would be implemented.
However in 2007 Tania McCabe also died from sepsis following ruptured membranes when she was six months pregnant. Recommendations that were made following her death have still “not been implemented in all maternity hospitals”.
In the wake of the HIQA report, Praveen Halappanavar is satisfied that his account of events has been vindicated, University Hospital Galway has apologised to Ms Halappanavar’s family for their actions, and the HSE are seeking increased staffing in maternity hospitals.
Fatal fetal abnormalities in NI
In Northern Ireland a woman, known only as ‘Laura’, reignited discussions on when abortion is permitted, after having to travel to England for an abortion when she was given a fatal foetal diagnosis. She was told that in Northern Ireland, she could only obtain an abortion if her pregnancy threatened her life. Laura had previously appealed to Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, to have her abortion at home, describing the prospect of having to travel as “horrendous”. In Northern Ireland, abortion is allowed where there is a serious risk to the life or health- physical or mental- of the pregnant person. While fatal fetal abnormalities are not included within this, the Irish Mirror reports that another woman was able to qualify for an abortion when her fetus was found to have a condition incompatible with life. In the wake of Laura’s case, Sarah Ewart, who was also forced to travel to England for an abortion when “her baby had no chance of survival”, has spoken out about her experiences.
Repealing the Eighth
The campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment received some needed media attention this week. Last Friday, [the Irish Times reported] on the Cork Women’s Right To Choose Group‘s public meeting, where Dr Sandra McEvoy and Doctors for Choice’s Mary Favier pointed out major flaws in current abortion legislation. There were fresh calls for a referendum on abortion from Irish pro-choice organisations. They want the question of allowing terminations in cases of rape or when a foetus has no chance of survival outside the womb, to be discussed by the Constitutional Convention. Jacqueline Healy of the National Women’s Council said the new law “only deals with a tiny number of cases and will not change anything for the majority of women with crisis pregnancies in this country”.
Bits & Pieces
This week, the Irish College of Psychiatrists voted against proposals that would have opposed the inclusion of suicide as a ground for obtaining an abortion in Ireland.
In the Irish Times, Anthea McTiernan wrote a fantastic opinion piece arguing that “Menstruating is normal. Sex is normal. Contraception is normal. Abortion is normal. It’s time to get over it”.
And in the US, Rachel Maddow reports on a case where a teenage girl has been denied an abortion by the Nebraska Supreme Court because she is “too immature” to make that decision- but not, it seems, too immature to be a mother.