I read Life Site News so you don’t have to but if you’re ever feeling masochistic enough, the site does provide a fascinating (and disturbing) glimpse into the zeitgeist of the anti-abortion/contraception movement. When the news broke that Savita Halappanavar, a young woman of Indian descent living in Ireland with her husband, died after being refused a lifesaving abortion they got quickly to work spinning and deflecting. They’ve impugned the motives of pro-choice groups outraged by Savita’s needless death and denied that abortion is ever necessary to save a woman’s life. Of course, they are trying to make the protests of Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws out to be an attack on the Catholic Church.
Halappanavar said that doctors determined that his wife was miscarrying within hours of her hospitalization and said that they refused to consider an abortion, saying that Ireland is a “Catholic country.”
The case has created an international media feeding frenzy, with headlines around the world implying that Catholic teaching is responsible for the woman’s death. Front page coverage has appeared in the Guardian, Daily Mail and the Mirror, as well the U.S. and UK editions of The Huffington Post, the CBC and elsewhere.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute called it “outrageous” to suggest that Catholic teaching would prevent proper treatment for a pregnant woman. “Neither the ethos of the Catholic Church nor the pro-life laws of Ireland would prevent any woman from receiving all treatment she requires in order to preserve her life,” she said.
There’s no reason to assume Savita Halappanavar’s grief-stricken husband is lying but the LSN is more concerned with allowing religious anti-abortion groups to deny that their beliefs, and the policies in existence based on those beliefs, may have played a role in her being denied abortion despite showing up at the hospital already dilated and in the process of a miscarriage.
There are a couple of contradictory claims running through all of LSN’s articles on Savita Halappanavar’s death. Irish law on abortion (which we can safely say is a model for what they want everywhere) is described as permitting abortion to save the life of the mother, and Catholic officials and anti-abortion groups are quoted as being in support of that. But that claim coincides quite often with this:
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said, “What we do know is that miscarriage and infection can be managed by proper medical treatment. Abortion is not medicine – it does not treat or cure any pathology.”…
…Earlier this year an international group of 140 obstetricians and other physicians meeting in Dublin issued a statement denying that abortion is ever “medically necessary” for women.
To those of us who have paid attention to the inconsistency and fantasy-based thinking of the anti-choice movement for years, this is nothing new. But this disconnect has serious health policy implications, as we can see from the tragedy in Ireland. Even exceptions for the woman’s life under an abortion ban will be ambiguous and likely to be determined by people who either don’t believe abortion is ever medically necessary or who are in fear of people like that reporting them to the police and going after their medical licenses. I suspect whoever it was at the Galway hospital who told Mr. Halappanavar his wife’s pregnancy couldn’t be terminated was in the latter category.
Here across the pond during the election, American voters were treated to a shocking display of ignorance and misogyny on the topic of rape exception in the comments of guys like Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, both of whom lost their US Senate races (thankfully). But ugly views on rape rooted in the assumption that bitches be lying about it are, sadly, not where the distrust of women ends with American social conservatives. Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who (thankfully) lost his seat to Tammy Duckworth this year, posited during a debate that abortion was never necessary to save the life of the woman:
“With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance,” Walsh said. “There is no such exception as life of the mother, and as far as health of the mother, same thing.”
Well, yeah, if they’re not going to allow abortions for these non-existent “life-threatening conditions” you ladies cook up so you can get out of your birthin’ duties they’re certainly not going allow them for your trivial “health concerns” either. But let’s be clear on Walsh’s comment about life exceptions: he didn’t pull it out of thin air. The belief that abortion is never medically necessary is common among antis here. Ultimately what all this means is that exceptions in abortion bans are going to be meaningless to a lot of women who ostensibly should be able to get them because whether or not they get them will be at the whim of other people who don’t necessarily trust women or who are operating from scientifically and medically accurate information.