Freedom of choice in Ireland

22 November 2012

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom denounces the death of Savita Halappanavar, a young Indian woman living in Galway, Ireland.

She died because the medical officer attending to her did not allow the termination of her 17 week old foetus, even though she was miscarrying and an abortion could have saved her life.

The medical officer’s reasoning was that he was a Catholic, Ireland is a Catholic country and Catholic doctirine does not allow abortions.

This is not the first time that the Irish government has haphazardly dealt with the issue of abortion. The famous Case X still hangs in the minds of many Irish as a reminder of the division on the issue of abortion in Ireland. In this case a 14 year old girl (so called X), was inpregnated by rape and as a result became suicidal.

When the girl sought abortion in the UK (since all abortions were illegal in Ireland at the time) the Irish government sought to stop her from having the abortion in the UK. When this was overruled the government finally ruled to allow abortions in Ireland in cases where the woman’s life is in danger.

Since that time, little has been done to properly implement this ruling, and many have called for « Action on X ». The current case of Savita Halappanavar has lead to even greater outcries for reform, and mass protests have taken to the streets, with 1000s in attendance.

The calls for reform are supported by International law including The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, set the agenda for women’s reproductive rights. Since then, sexual and reproductive rights have become a fundamental right for women all over the world, except as it seems, in Ireland.

If Savita Halappanavar had had the right to choice and thus the right to abort, she would not have been condemned to die.

The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action outlined the necessity for the discussion of the sexual and reproductive rights of women. 17 years on, and in the wake of Savita Halappanavar’s death, it is imperative that Ireland readdresses the issue of reproductive rights, and the freedom women should have over their own bodies.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom urges the government of Ireland to recognise the rights of women to abort, so that in the future, women like Savita Halappanavar do not lose their lives.

Download this statement in PDF here.