Love and Shame in the Wake of Savita


I love my city. It’s easy to love. In a pub in Glasgow the other day I heard people around a pool table mocking how much Corkonians love our city. Loving Cork is a tired old stereotype that just so happens to be true. There’s a lot to love.

My city is walking by the river on a chilly day eating takeaway gourmet sausage sandwiches from the English Market. It’s warm cafes and pubs you can spend all day in. It’s meeting people you know every time you walk down the street. It’s friendliness and openness. It’s laid-back, relaxed, shure it’ll be grand. My city is where I came out and was nurtured (and, er, some other things too!) by a wonderful queer community. My city is organic, free-range and fair-trade. It’s beardy lefties and bringing your kids and dogs along to the protest. My city is a wonderful sense of independence, knowing we’re as good as anyone and probably better, and doing it yourself.

I love my city. I am deeply ashamed of my country.

A lot of non-Irish blogs and other media have been talking about Savita this week. Of course they have! And to start off, I was aghast at how they talked about Ireland. As if we’re an ignorant, backward, priest-ridden society. As if we’re a nation of fundamentalists. I wanted to shout at them that we’re not like that. We’re a secular society! Many of us call ourselves Catholics, but we don’t hang off a bishop’s every word. We don’t. I wanted to say that we’re a secular society chipping away at a decades-old institutional veneer of religiosity. I wanted to share how easy it is to be irreligious, atheist or humanist as an adult in Ireland. I wanted to talk about how I’ve never had to come out as atheist like so many Americans I hear about. I’ve never worried about being shunned or rejected because of my lack of belief. I wanted to shout that we’re so, so far from stereotypes of Irishness.

But none of that matters.

A candle-lit vigil for Savita, her name in candles on the ground.

We’re not a secular society chipping away at a decades-old institutional veneer of religiosity. Not any more. We’re a society rotten to the core with the abject power and reach of the Catholic Church, with an easy, shallow sheen of secularism. We’re secular when it’s easy. As a childless adult, an Irish citizen without major health issues who moves in urban, educated circles, it’s easy. I don’t have to send a child to a Catholic school. I don’t have to stay in a hospital. I live easily.

Many of us live easily. And one of the things about being Irish is that we figure that if it ain’t broke, there’s no point worrying about it. We live our easy lives and we decide that it’ll be grand. Sure, abortion is illegal here. But can’t you get over to the UK for half nothing with Ryanair? Not a bother like.

Our complacency gave us an easy life. And now our complacency has killed.

I love my city. I love my country too, but as a Corkonian I’ve got to say that I love my city more. I love my city and my country, and I am deeply ashamed of them. My sweet, easygoing city is part of a country that sat for decades on a ruling that would have prevented Savita Halappanavar’s death. Because underneath our laid-back exterior is a cowardly and judgemental core.

Protester holding a sign with the word "shame"

We should be ashamed. We need to be ashamed. We need to feel our shame, take it and turn it into rage. We need to stand before Savita Halappanavar’s husband, parents, friends and family and tell them that we were wrong. We need to beg them for the mercy that we did not show their wife and daughter.

And then we need to stand up and take responsibility.

The world thinks that Ireland is a fundamentalist, backward country. They think that we would rather follow the bishops than our own consciences. They think that we don’t care about the lives of women. They are right.

We need to be ashamed, and then we need to change this. We need to change it NOW. Not next year. Now. Because in our hospitals today there are women suffering through miscarriages. There are women at risk of septicaemia. If we are to call ourselves a civilised country, we act now. We legislate for X, and we make that legislation rock-solid. And today, tomorrow, next year, ten years and a hundred years from now, when we talk about abortion we do not listen to a Church that would have women die. We listen to Savita’s pain, to the grief of her loved ones, to our deep and abiding sense of shame, and we do the right thing.

Protests and Vigils for Savita Praveen


Protests and Vigils for Savita Praveen.

 

Wherever you are, please go. If you’re outside Ireland and in a place with an Irish embassy or consulate, please go. If you’re not, please write, share, talk.

My country kills women.


I woke up this morning in a hostel in Glasgow. The phone was ringing. Sleepy passing the phone to my partner, burying my head in a pillow while she talked. We’d slept through breakfast time. She went downstairs to meet a friend across the road for tea. Failing to get back to sleep and not wanting to leave my duvet, I propped myself up to check my phone.

I have never felt so disgusted by my state as I am today. That is, by the way, a big statement. I come from a land of Magdalen laundries and cover-ups by supposed moral authorities of child abusers. Funding cuts to the most vulnerable while the people who got us into this mess get off free and disabled people and immigrants are scapegoated. These realities become callouses. It takes a lot to be shocked.

I spent the last week of October visiting my family. Catching up with my cousin after her honeymoon. Calling over to friends from back home. Dinners with family and friends, full of that wonderful bustling laughter and warmth of sharing with the people you love.

While I was passing the potatoes and poking around the kitchen for a bottle of wine, a few hours drive away Savita Praveen Halappanavar was dying.

Savita did not need to die.

She was pregnant. On 21st October, she went to hospital suffering from severe back pain. She was suffering a miscarriage. 21st October was the Sunday just after the Trans* Rally for Recognition. A lazy day at home for me, recovering from the week before. According to my journal I spent the afternoon on the sofa watching One Born Every Minute. Ironic, that I would watch a show about giving birth in the UK as a woman in Ireland was about to find out what happens here when pregnancy goes wrong.

Savita was having a miscarriage, but her foetus still had a heartbeat. She asked for the foetus to be removed, to bring this ordeal to an end. She was refused. She was in agonising pain. Ireland is a Catholic country. She asked again. She was refused. She asked again. She was refused.

It took three days for the foetal heartbeat to stop. Three days of unrelenting agony. Until Wednesday. Once the heartbeat stopped, her foetus was removed. Wednesday, by the way, when I was complaining about sitting next to a rather stinky loo on the bus down to Cork, after spending the morning sating a craving for Alpen. In the meantime, Savita had developed septicaemia- almost certainly caused by those three days with her cervix fully dilated and nothing to protect her from the outside world. She was taken to intensive care. On Saturday night- when I was kicking the cat out of my room so I could get some damn sleep- she died.

She was 31.

This isn’t far away. This isn’t a long time ago. This is here and this is now. This is hours or minutes away from our everyday lives. This is what Ireland is. We are a country that forces women to die preventable deaths in agony. We are a country that calls this ‘pro-life’.

I’m writing this from a cafe in Glasgow. Tomorrow morning I’ll fly home to Ireland. The flight over here took about 40 minutes. Forty short minutes that are the difference between life and death. If Savita had walked into a hospital here she would still be alive. Because she was a few hundred kilometers southwest, she died.

I don’t want to say that we must all be Savita. We’re not. We’re alive and she’s dead. But it’s about time that every single one of us became her friend. Became her family. Stood in solidarity and grief beside those who loved her. Beside her husband and her family and everyone who loved her and now has to wake every day knowing that, in the name of life, we took hers away. It’s high time we make sure that every one of our voices is heard and that what is heard is NO. We will not stand idly by while this happens. We will not allow our politicians to hide and put off legislation for decades while women die.

We need to take back the moral high ground. Need to wrench it back from every sneering ‘pro-lifer’ who says that abortion is never necessary to save a life. Need to stop talking about abortion as if it were a necessary evil and remember that a few weeks ago abortion would have been the absolute unquestionable right thing to do. We need to always, always remember that these are the people who hear a woman in agony begging for her pain to be taken away and say no. These are the people who leave a woman to hurt and die and refuse to make it stop. The next time that someone tells you that you are a murderer for supporting a women’s right to choose, remember this. Remember Savita.

Savita died an unnecessary, horrible death. Let us take that death and our grief and shame and let us stop this. She cannot have died in vain. Let us make sure that this never happens again and let us make sure that Savita’s name is never forgotten.

The X Case: Let’s get legislation.


Are you Irish or living in Ireland? Are you sick to death of successive governments refusing to legislate for the two-decades-old X Case? I am.

TW for abortion, rape, child abuse and Irish politics. Here we go.

In case you’re not from here or have been living under a rock since the early 1990s, the X Case happened twenty years ago, and involved a 14-year-old child who needed to access an abortion. Here’s Cork Feminista on it:

20 years ago a 14 year old girl, known as X, grabbed the attention of Ireland when she had to go to England to try to get an abortion after being raped and impregnated by a family friend. Her case lead to the first frank public discussion about abortion and the sexual and reproductive rights of women. Both the government and the Supreme Court had to take a stance one the subject and society was also actively involved in the matter through a referendum.

It looked like Ireland was finally recognizing the need for abortion regulation. Irish people voted to carry the referendum but still the Republic had some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. The government had the responsibility to legislate for the decision; however after almost 20 years no government had been determined enough to approve the regulation that was required. Today, Irish people still don’t know exactly what this kind of abortion means in real terms.

Yeaaaaah. Kid gets raped and pregnant. Is suicidal. Needs an abortion. Has to go to the frickin Supreme Court to be allowed out of the country to get one. This led to a referendum. The Irish people voted in favour of allowing women abortions when their lives are at risk. A few years later, we (because I was old enough to vote at this time) voted in favour of considering suicide one of those risks.

And for twenty years, the government has sat back and done nothing.

Of course, women in Ireland haven’t been sitting back and doing nothing. Women in Ireland have been travelling to the UK in their thousands for needed abortions. For decades. And y’know something? It’s about time we did something about it. Last month’s March for Choice was amazing. But a march is just one day and it’s easy for legislators to ignore. And in the meantime, even women whose health is endangered, whose fetuses are dying inside them, and who are only children themselves are forced to travel overseas every single goddamn day for the medical care they need. As for immigrant women living here without visas to travel out of the country? They don’t get to have abortions. Even if their health is at risk. Even if they’re deathly ill. Even is their fetuses are dying. Even if they’ve been raped, even if they’re suicidal, even if they are children.

This is not okay.

Here’s what you’ve got to do.

It’ll take you a minute, max. Click on this link. Follow the instructions and an email’ll be sent out to your TDs calling for action on X. Then share it. Share it with everyone. That’s all you’ve got to do.

Do it.

Now.

Abortion in Ireland: the facts.


Via IFPA:

Every day 12 women leave Ireland to access abortion services in the UK. Who are these women and girls? You might be surprised. Women who have abortions come from all walks and all stages of life. They are women you know.

 

More on abortion in Ireland from the past few days:

An intro to abortion rights in Ireland.

About the new Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast- why it’s both a small and groundbreaking step.

And one thing to think about: Even life-saving abortions may not be available in Ireland. What does this mean for migrant women who may not be able to obtain visas to travel overseas? Pro-lifers will tell you that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to give birth. I guess that only counts if you’re a citizen?


” I hope that in Belfast, a network of abortion escorts is being drawn up; people who can meet women accessing the clinic and guide them through the rabble of fascists safely. I hope there’s other measures for safety to counter these affronts on bodily freedom.

And for those of us who are not physically in Northern Ireland, we need to be loud and vocal in our support, and drown out the clamour of those who seek to control our bodies. Speak out about your support for what Marie Stopes are doing in Belfast.”

The clinic in Belfast is opening this afternoon to a barrage of protesters. We’ve got to stand up, speak out, and show our support for the incredible and brave work they’re doing. Let’s be not only louder, but infinitely more compassionate than they could ever be.

Another angry woman

Today, something amazing happened. A tiny, incremental step that will change lives for the better. An abortion clinic opened up. Not just any abortion clinic, though. This one is in Belfast, in the heart of a country where reproductive choice and bodily autonomy is a right which has been historically denied to women.

Women in Northern Ireland (and the Republic, where the law is similar), have to travel to mainland Britain to access abortion. The opening of the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast has changed this.

It’s offering contraception advice, help for women, and medical abortions up to nine weeks. It’s not enough, of course it’s not enough, it’s hamstrung by its attempts to comply with existing regulations, but in the context it’s a giant leap. They’re there, in the open, saying “women have abortions and that’s OK. We’re here to help.” And of course it’s drawn the usual attempts…

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March for Choice roundup!


Here’s where I’m posting any links to blog posts, articles, video and pictures of the March for Choice last Saturday.

Articles and Posts

Rebecca, who I met in real life the day of the march, has a post up on her blog.

TheJournal.ie had a great article with a wee bit of context on the Irish situation, as well as tons of pics.

Broadsheet.ie have a photoset live from the march, as well as an article questioning varying reports of the numbers of people who showed up.

Forty Days for Choice’s writeup:

Yesterday in Dublin was a beautiful day: a 24-hour, sunshine-filled break from the rains which had been pouring down on us all the rest of the week. More importantly, it was a truly historic occasion; it was the first time people in their thousands had gathered together in our capital city to celebrate being pro-choice together, and to call for the provision of safe, legal and accessible abortion to be made available to people living on the island of Ireland in their own countries.

Here’s a photoset by Michael Stamp, and one from Paula Geraghty.

CorkFeminista have a press release on the march itself, as well as an interesting post on the history of abortion (lack of) rights in Ireland. Would be interesting for all you non-Irish people if you’d like to find out more about the background here.

Metro Herald’s  article.

Sophie from Lesbilicious was at work in O’Connell Street when she saw the march going past.

Campus.ie talk about the march, the impending report, and Ireland’s many abortion-related referenda.

And, of course, can’t leave out my own review over at Feminist Ire with my experiences and pics.

Videos 

Choice Ireland spokesperson Sinead Ahern speaks for Generation X and gives a background on how Irish women have been successively failed by our state:

TD Clare Daly speaking after the march:

The march passing by Stephen’s Green.

My AMAZING BFF and bromiga extraordinaire Ariel speaking about the LGBTQ and pro-choice movements, how queer women need to speak up about abortion, and recognition of the fact that it ain’t just women who need abortions:

Mara Clarke, the “American who lives in London and helps women in Ireland and Northern Ireland get abortions”, talking about the Abortion Support Network.

Trade Union TV’s excellent report:

Anyone have anything I’ve missed? I’m updating this post as I find more, so do check back.

But before you go, and if you click on nothing else, go to the Abortion Support Network and do what you can to donate or let others know about them! What they do is so important and makes lifelong differences to Irish women.