SAVITA Halappanavar was just 11-years-old when the X case judgment was handed down. Today, she’s a martyr to the political cowardice that, for two decades, refused to implement that ruling.
One such woman, Gráinne Bray, on RTE’s The Frontline on Monday, spoke in harrowing detail of how doctors refused to intervene in her pregnancy for fear of harming her seven-week-old twin foetuses.
"From the day I did my pregnancy test I was in acute pain, but I was turned away from A&E several times because I wasn’t bleeding and I wasn’t miscarrying. They couldn’t help me.
"One night I collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital, but they still couldn’t intervene because the foetal heartbeats were still there. That went on for another week. I was in acute pain, had an elevated white cell count, fever, drenched in sweat — they could not intervene.
"Eventually, we lost the babies and I was brought down to theatre … when they opened me up, the surgeon said he couldn’t see any internal organs I was so full of pus … the consultant told my husband that if the foetuses hadn’t died when they did, I would have been dead within a week," she said.
Mrs Bray isn’t alone. According to Dr Mark Murphy, who has published research in this area, there have been many cases when mothers, with a real and substantial risk to their lives, were forced to travel abroad for a termination of their pregnancy.
Dr Murphy, in his research, found that 9% of GPs had managed a pregnant patient with a life-threatening medical condition, but recorded only one instance of an Irish doctor performing a termination in an Irish hospital — in a case of severe preeclampsia.
"All the other cases travelled abroad for a termination despite the fact their GP felt they had a real and substantial risk to their life," he said.
These threats to life included pregnant women with cancer who required an abortion to avail of treatment like chemotherapy; women with severe cardiovascular disease requiring termination to prevent maternal ill health and those at severe psychiatric risk, like rape victims.
So, desperately ill women in these appalling situations are handed their medical files and told, "you may want to travel" — the euphemism used when women are exported, with no consideration given to the potential impact on their psychological health, to access abortion services abroad.