Abortion and journeys.


I wrote this yesterday morning. Meant to post it yesterday but after no sleep at all, got home and crashed out. Here it is.

I’m sitting drinking tea and eating overpriced breakfast in Prestwick airport. Lady Gaga is playing on speaker somewhere. It’s 5.40am.

I didn’t sleep tonight. Did you? I couldn’t. Not just because I knew I had to get up before 4am, or the loud drunk people in the hostel room next door, or because I’d just said goodbye to the Ladyfriend until the next visit and the bed felt terribly cold and lonesome. I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking of Savita. And I couldn’t stop thinking of all the Irish women lying awake tonight for early morning flights to the UK, while thousands around the country mourn and rage. I wonder how that feels. I hope that today of all days, they know that Ireland is waking up to the love and compassion it’s been hiding all these years.

I’m lucky. I’ve never had to make that journey. I’m lucky. I have the choice.

I don’t know about the details of Savita’s life. I’m sure I’ll find out more over the next days and weeks. But right now I want to ask a question. Did Savita have a choice? And what about the women who don’t?

Savita’s choice was denied her because by the time she made it she was in an Irish hospital with doctors who chose, for some reason, to inform her that she was “in a Catholic country”. Catholic countries have no compassion for dying women. But did she have a choice to start with?

Irish women, we have choice. Those of us who can afford it, at least. We can take our early-morning flights and make our escape. Many migrant women don’t have that choice, can live in Ireland for years knowing that if they need to leave, they can’t. I wonder how that feels. Knowing that life in the home you’ve made for yourself is a Russian roulette if you don’t want to be pregnant. Or if you’re pregnant and have a non viable fetus. Or if you’re pregnant and have cancer, or anything else short of the immediate threat of dying. Or even that. Knowing that as you lie dying, your doctor might just tell you where you live and leave. Leave, while you cannot.

Our country says that to migrant women. They made their beds, we say, as we force them to lie in them even to the death.

I don’t know the details of Savita’s life. But this isn’t just about Savita. She is one of the unlucky ones. She’s the one we’ve heard about. Savita is dead, and I can’t believe that she’s alone. Savita’s life is one part of our story of absolutes, lack of compassion and the devaluing of so many lives in the name of morality.

Sitting here in a UK airport before dawn this morning, I wonder about the rest of that story.

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9 thoughts on “Abortion and journeys.

  1. I know that she wanted to have the baby, her and and her husband were described as being “over the moon” about the pregnancy.

    I also know that her waters had broken and her cervix was fully open within hours of entering hospital, which is probably why she got septicemia…it was an E. Coli infection, which probably meant that it entered her vagina and uterus from her back passage, and upon entering her uterus, the bacteria would have gone into her blood through the placenta.

    She began asking for the removal of the foetus when her bag of waters broke, because at that point there was no chance that the foetus could survive, not even a one-in-a-million chance that miscarriage could have been prevented. Also at that point it would have been even more dangerous for her to check out of hospital and take a flight to the UK.

    (It’s reported in the press that her waters had broken and her cervix was open for three days, and that E. Coli was the bacteria that caused the septicemia. The other details are based on my personal knowledge of pregnancy and birth issues. I was very much a “pregnancy geek” when I was still having kids and considered studying midwifery.)

    So- she wanted the baby, but her choice was taken from her as soon as she entered an Irish hospital.

    Beyond the political change that is obviously needed, I feel that the doctor was entirely negligent to insist on the cessation of the foetal heartbeat before he removed the foetus, because he knew perfectly well that Savita’s life was endangered by going so long with an open cervix, and the foetus had no chance at all of surviving. Even under the current conditions of the Irish constitution, the foetus had zero chance of survival and Savita’s life was endangered, so the foetus could legally have been removed immediately. I hope there is an investigation and I hope the doctor who made these decisions is struck off.

    However, I personally know of two different Irish women who’ve had to go to the UK after a “missed miscarrage”, which is when the foetus has died but doesn’t come out on its own. That also is absolutely inexcusable.

    Sorry for such a long comment…hope it clarifies things.

  2. Sorry, forgot to mention that it’s also reported in the press that she and her husband repeatedly for the removal of the foetus in the days leading to her death, but you probably knew that detail already.

  3. And sorry again, promise I will STFU after this comment. Forgot to add that Savita was a dentist, which means she was probably better off financially and had more education than many migrant women. (And I have to add, as a migrant woman myself, that it has moved me deeply to see so many Irish protesting while holding photos of a migrant woman. The Irish populace seems to realise that times have changed, now we just need to force the government to catch up.)

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