The Story Of Suffering And Death Behind Ireland’s Abortion Ban And Subsequent Legalization

The Story Of Suffering And Death Behind Ireland’s Abortion Ban And Subsequent Legalization
 The death of Savita Halappanavar in an Irish hospital in 2012 after she was denied an abortion during a miscarriage caused outrage across Ireland. AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the U.S., the nation may find itself on a path similar to that trod by the Irish people from 1983 to 2018. A draft decision signed by the majority of conservative justices was leaked in May 2022, and indicates the court may do just that.

Abortion was first prohibited in Ireland through what was called the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861. That law became part of Irish law when Ireland gained independence from the U.K. in 1922. In the early 1980s, some anti-abortion Catholic activists noticed the liberalization of abortion laws in other Western democracies and worried the same might happen in Ireland.

Various Catholic organizations, including the Irish Catholic Doctors’ Guild, St. Joseph’s Young Priests Society and the St. Thomas More Society, combined to form the Pro Life Amendment Campaign. They began promoting the idea of making Ireland a model anti-abortion nation by enshrining an abortion ban not only in law but in the nation’s constitution.

As a result of that effort, a constitutional referendum passed in 1983, ending a bitter campaign where only 54% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Ireland’s eighth constitutional amendment “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and [gave] due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.”

This religiously motivated anti-abortion measure is similar to religiously oriented anti-abortion laws already on the books in some U.S. states, including Texas, which has a ban after six weeks of pregnancy, and Kentucky, which limits private health insurance coverage of abortion.

What happened over the 35 years after the referendum passed in Ireland was a battle to legalize abortion. It included several court cases, proposed constitutional amendments and intense advocacy, ending in 2018 with another referendum, re-amending the Irish constitution to legalize abortion up to 12 weeks gestation.

Real-life consequences

Even before 1983, people who lived in Ireland who wanted a legal abortion were already traveling to England on what was known as the “abortion trail”, as abortion was also criminalized in Northern Ireland. In the wake of the Eighth Amendment, a 1986 Irish court ruling declared that even abortion counseling was prohibited.

A key test of the abortion law came in 1992. A 14-year-old rape victim, who became pregnant, told a court she was contemplating suicide because of being forced to carry her rapist’s baby. The judge ruled that the threat to her life was not so great as to justify granting permission for an abortion. That ruling barred her from leaving Ireland for nine months, effectively forcing her to carry the pregnancy to term.

On appeal, a higher court ruled that the young woman’s suicidal thoughts were in fact enough of a life threat to justify a legal termination. But before she could have an abortion, she miscarried.


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

The case prompted attempts to pass three more amendments to Ireland’s constitution. One, declaring that suicidal intentions were not grounds for an abortion, failed. The other two passed, allowing Irish people to travel to get an abortion, and allowing information to be distributed about legal abortion in other countries.

Emergency treatment

Even with these adjustments, the Eighth Amendment sometimes restricted the ability of medical professionals to offer patients life-saving care during a pregnancy-related emergency.

In 2012, Savita Halappanavar, age 31 and 17 weeks pregnant, went to a hospital in Galway, Ireland. Doctors there determined that she was having a miscarriage. However, because the fetus still had a detectable heartbeat, it was protected by the Eighth Amendment. Doctors could not intervene – in legal terms, ending its life – even to save the mother. So she was admitted to the hospital for pain management while awaiting the miscarriage to progress naturally.

Over the course of three days, as her pain increased and signs of infection grew, she and her husband pleaded with hospital officials to terminate the pregnancy because of the health risk. The request was denied because the fetus still had a heartbeat.

By the time the fetal heartbeat could no longer be detected, Halappanavar had developed a massive infection in her uterus, which spread to her blood. After suffering organ failure and four days in intensive care, she died.

This was likely not the only time someone had suffered, or even died, as a result of being denied abortion in Ireland. But the publicity surrounding the case prompted a new wave of activism aimed at repealing the Eighth Amendment. In 2013, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was signed into law, which did not fully repeal the Eighth Amendment but legalized abortions that would protect the mother’s life.

It is estimated that about 170,000 people traveled from Ireland to seek a legal abortion between 1980 and 2018.

In 2018, a referendum repealing the Eighth Amendment passed overwhelmingly by a margin of 66% to 34%. As a result of the repeal, legal abortions are now allowed during the first trimester, with costs covered by the public health service.

A similar situation in the US

As a social work professor who researches reproductive health care, I see many parallels between what happened in Ireland between 1983 and 2018 and the present U.S. situation.

People in the U.S. are already traveling long distances, often to other states, in a manner similar to the Irish abortion trail.

In both the U.S. and Ireland, the people who need help paying for abortions are mostly single people in their 20s who already have an average of two children, according to research I conducted with some abortion funds, which are charitable organizations that help people cover often-unaffordable abortion expenses.

In contrast to the United States, Ireland is moving away from political control over private life. If Roe is reversed and abortion is criminalized in much of the U.S., pregnant people could face decades of forced pregnancy, suffering and even death – as was the case in Ireland prior to 2018.The Conversation

About The Author

Gretchen E. Ely, Professor of Social Work and Ph.D. Program Director, University of Tennessee

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Recommended Books: Health

Fresh Fruit CleanseFresh Fruit Cleanse: Detox, Lose Weight and Restore Your Health with Nature's Most Delicious Foods [Paperback] by Leanne Hall.
Lose weight and feel vibrantly healthy while clearing your body of toxins. Fresh Fruit Cleanse offers everything you need for an easy and powerful detox, including day-by-day programs, mouth-watering recipes, and advice for transitioning off the cleanse.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Thrive FoodsThrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health [Paperback] by Brendan Brazier.
Building upon the stress-reducing, health-boosting nutritional philosophy introduced in his acclaimed vegan nutrition guide Thrive, professional Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier now turns his attention to your dinner plate (breakfast bowl and lunch tray too).
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Death by Medicine by Gary NullDeath by Medicine by Gary Null, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Carolyn Dean
The medical environment has become a labyrinth of interlocking corporate, hospital, and governmental boards of directors, infiltrated by the drug companies. The most toxic substances are often approved first, while milder and more natural alternatives are ignored for financial reasons. It's death by medicine.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeeliwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptroruesswsvthtrukurvi

MOST READ

foods healthier when cooked 6 19
9 Vegetables That Are Healthier When Cooked
by Laura Brown, Teesside University
Not all food is more nutritious when eaten raw. Indeed, some vegetables are actually more…
charger incapability 9 19
New USB-C Charger Rule Shows How EU Regulators Make Decisions For The World
by Renaud Foucart, Lancaster University
Have you ever borrowed a friend’s charger only to find it is not compatible with your phone? Or…
social stress and aging 6 17
How Social Stress Can Speed Up Immune System Aging
by Eric Klopack, University of Southern California
As people age, their immune systems naturally begin to decline. This aging of the immune system,…
intermetten fasting 6 17
Is Intermittent Fasting Actually Good For Weight Loss?
by David Clayton, Nottingham Trent University
If you’re someone who’s thought about losing weight or has wanted to get healthier in the past few…
the west that never exsisted 4 28
Supreme Court Ushers In The Wild West That Never Actually Existed
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
The Supreme Court has just, by all appearances, intentionally turned America into an armed camp.
man. woman and child at the beach
Is This The Day? Father's Day Turnaround
by Will Wilkinson
It's Father's Day. What's the symbolic meaning? Could something life-changing happen today in your…
helath effects of bpa 6 19
What Decades Of Research Document The Health Effects Of BPA
by Tracey Woodruff, University of California, San Francisco
Whether or not you’ve heard of the chemical bisphenol A, better known as BPA, studies show that…
ocean sustainability 4 27
The Health Of The Ocean Hinges On Economics And The Idea Of Infinity Fish
by Rashid Sumaila, University of British Columbia
Indigenous Elders recently shared their dismay about the unprecedented decline in salmon…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.