Welcome to another Weekly Roundup, where each week our media team highlights how abortion is discussed at home and abroad. This week: marking the first anniversary of Savita Halappanavar’s death, calls for revised abortion guidelines in Northern Ireland, and abortion access is under threat in Texas.
This week saw the anniversary of the tragic and preventable death of Savita Halappanavar last year, and it is clear that we, as a nation, have a long way to go to come to terms with what happened this young woman, our culpability, and the many ways we need to change to prevent it happening again.
On Monday, hundreds of people gathered in candlelit vigils in Cork, Dublin, Savita’s adopted home of Galway and her home town of Belguam in India to mark one year since her death. While Savita’s friends spoke of their ongoing sadness at her loss, her family have called for the Irish government to establish a trust fund to help people in need in her name.
This week also saw the publication of Savita: The Tragedy That Shook A Nation by Kitty Holland, the journalist who originally broke Savita’s story last year. The book tells the story of Savita’s life and death. Responding to the book, former minister for health Mary O’Rourke spoke of being struck by the palpable pain of Savita’s story, and how she humanised Ireland’s attitudes towards abortion. Also writing in the Irish Times, Olivia O’Leary connected Savita’s death to her own experiences with Irish maternity care, pointing out the “impossible line” that Irish doctors and nurses have to walk between acting in the best interests of their patients, and following rules laid down by the Catholic church. In the Irish Examiner, Victoria White takes the perspective that Savita’s case was related as much to negligence as it was to abortion. White reminds us that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act would have been unlikely to change the outcome of Savita’s case as the danger to her life went unacknowledged, that public patients face gross inadequacies in the care they receive. We need abortion access- and we need far, far more than that.
Guidelines in Northern Ireland
In recent weeks, debates have been ongoing over Northern Irish abortion guidelines after several women came forward with their stories of having to travel to England for abortions following diagnoses of fatal fetal abnormalities. Health Minister Edwin Poots has pledged to bring forward revised guidelines for review in the coming weeks, but, according to the Belfast Telegraph, has refused to comment on what these guidelines might be and what advice he has received.
Texas: Abortion access under attack
New laws limiting access to abortion in Texas have been making their way through a series of appeals this week in the US. These laws are part of a strategy by anti-choice groups to make abortion more and more difficult to obtain, while still technically legal. The law has four provisions- three of which were upheld this week by both District and Circuit Courts, and a fourth which was struck down by the District court only to be upheld three days later by the Circuit. Upheld by both courts was a provision to force doctors to only prescribe medical abortions according to FDA guidelines- which, according to the Slate’s Emily Bazelon, are over a decade out-of-date and would require women to be given a higher dose of medication than necessary, with increased risks of side-effects, and restrict medical abortions to 7 weeks when they are now known to be safe for another fortnight. The fourth provision- upheld yesterday evening– is even more worrying, and requires doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges to a local hospital. This, as The Guardian point out, is both unnecessary and impractical- emergency room doctors can admit patients, and hospitals are often either run by antichoice Christian denominations, fear backlash if they give admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions, or require their doctors to actually work in the hospital. More on this case, and how it could affect abortion access throughout the US, from the New York Times. As it stands today, all four provisions have been upheld- although they will likely be put before a different panel of judges in January.
A project in Canada’s Price Edward Island showing the ‘Women’s Abortion Access Maze’, an exploration of the complexities of women’s stories and the barriers they face when local abortion access doesn’t exist, attempts to highlight women’s voices and experiences.
Dr Rebecca Gomperts of Women on Web was interviewed on the BBC’s HardTalk about her organisation, and the safety of providing medical abortions online.
And finally, here’s a clip of Hilary Clinton responding to questions about whether she will continue to support abortion access throughout the world.
Looking forward to seeing you all at the Festival for Choice on November 15th and 16th.
Have we missed anything? Any events upcoming we should know about? Let us know in the comments!
Also related to the PEI Abortion Access Maze piece that you covered is the following story from the Charlottetown Guardian, which reports on a publication telling real Prince Edward Island women’s personal stories of accessing abortions.The “Zine/Chapbook of P.E.I. Women’s Abortion Experiences” was rooted in a Speak Out event held at the Guild last year, where Island women publicly shared their experiences of either having or trying to access the procedure. Here’s a link. http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2013-10-27/article-3449569/Publication-tells-Island-women%26rsquo%3Bs-real-stories-of-abortion-access/1
Keep up the great work. I really enjoy reading the week;y round ups.