Meanwhile, the bereaved husband, in-laws and parents of the young mother have retreated to India and are demanding that Ireland liberalise its abortion laws. This demand is being joined by the Indian Ambassador to Ireland, the legalisation-pushers in Ireland’s parliament, the secular media and professional abortion lobbyists, as well as, perhaps most strangely, the official opposition party of India, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.This despite the fact – as has been pointed out several times in editorials, press releases, blog posts and hundreds of comments boxes both Catholic and non-Catholic – that abortion is not a medical treatment for either miscarriage or for severe systemic infections and no one has any idea whether Savita Halappanavar really wanted an abortion, or whether “early induction” of labour would have saved her life….Even pro-life advocates have pointed out that the current law and medical guidance include the possibility of abortion in the “rare” cases where the woman’s life may be endangered. The University Hospital would certainly have known this, it being the standard of gynecological care throughout the country. Indeed, I was told today by a reliable Irish source that on the gynecological staff at that hospital is at least one “rabid” pro-abortion doctor who would certainly have made sure that this would have happened had it been medically possible. Eilís Mulroy has written in The Irish Independent, under the headline “Pro-choice side must not hijack this terrible event”, asking, “Was Ms Halappanavar treated in line with existing obstetrical practice in Ireland?In light of these facts, it seems extremely unlikely, except perhaps in the dreams of rabid anti-Catholics, that the doctors at the hospital would have simply said, “This is a Catholic country, we don’t do that here.”….
How much better? The WHO’s document shows that from data gathered up to 2005, Ireland had one maternal death. Yes, one. India had 450 per 100,000 live births for a total of about 117,000. Under India’s current law allowing abortion virtually on demand, about 11 million children are (officially reported) killed by abortion annually – just under two and half times the entire population of the Irish Republic – and around 20,000 women die of complications related to these legal abortions.
“We cannot know the all the details about her condition, treatment, and untimely death until the investigations are completed and the results made available to the public. What we do know is that the standard medical practice, in conformity with Irish law and medical ethics, requires that pregnant women receive all essential medical treatment during pregnancy – even if it won’t be possible for the baby to survive that treatment.The Irish Medical Council’s guidelines on professional conduct and ethics clearly state that ‘In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.’…Miscarriage has never formed part of the abortion discussion in Ireland. Legalising abortion will not change the management of miscarriage. Miscarriage is a common and very sad event that is managed by doctors as a routine part of their obstetric practice. About 14,000 women in Ireland experience miscarriage every year. Half of them attend hospital for treatment. Our laws on abortion do not prevent physicians from treating these 7,000 women in whatever way is necessary. It is misleading to suggest that Ireland’s law on abortion is in any way responsible for Savita Halappanavar’s death. The Medical Council is clear that treatments managing miscarriage are permitted, and they do not constitute abortion.”
Once an infection like that takes hold it’s very difficult to get under control. That’s why it’s important in an obstetric infection to get the baby out as quickly as possible.I could see the ban on doing it while there’s still a fetal heartbeat if you’re doing an extraction abortion, which involves dismembering a live baby in-utero. That’s unspeakably cruel to the baby — and I can’t see how it could help the mother to have the baby’s body converted to lots of sharp bone shards to scratch up her uterine walls and give the infection an even quicker way to get into her bloodstream.Inducing labor or doing a forceps-assisted delivery makes perfect sense. It removes the baby from what is, essentially, a toxic environment of infected amniotic fluid, and gives the child the chance to know being held and loved before he or she dies.So this whole thing strikes me as just utterly bizarre.
“The lack of precise medical details included in media coverage of the Savita Halappanavar case does indeed make it difficult to offer a cogent moral analysis of what transpired…If it were the case, for example, that she suffered from a serious placental infection unable to be controlled by other remedies, it would have been allowable to induce labor under a proper application of the principle of double effect. Such an action would not constitute a direct abortion, but maternally directed therapy to remedy the infection, with the secondary, unintended effect that the life of the child would be lost.”
by Stephanie Gray
Do the tragic deaths in Ireland of Savita Halappanavar and her pre-born daughter Prasa really make a case for legal abortion? Many across the world are coming to that conclusion but overlooking an important piece of information recently reported in The Irish Times and The Guardian: an autopsy revealed that Halappanavar died of septicaemia “documented ante-mortem”and E.coli ESBL.
Countless news reports are only talking about the septicaemia (i.e., blood poisoning), but few are discussing E.coli ESBL, which, incidentally enough, can lead to, you guessed it, septicaemia. Just what is E. coli ESBL? An antibiotic-resistant bacteria (not to be confused with regular strains of E. coli that cause food poisoning) that is associated with urinary tract infections (UTI). This strain of E. coli has been spreading in the UK and last year two babies died in nearby Wales because of it. The presence of E. coli ESBL is particularly problematic if Halappanavar was given antibiotics to fight an infection that was resistant to those very antibiotics.
According to the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, E. coli is one of the most common organisms to cause a UTI and complicated UTIs are frequently associated with pregnancy. They write, “The likelihood of treatment failure and serious complications, particularly the development of antimicrobial resistance, is more common in cUTI [complicated urinary tract infection].”
So instead of jumping to the conclusions that Halappanavar needed an abortion and that Ireland needs to legalize the killing of the youngest of its kind, the reasonable approach would be to get to the bottom of what Halappanavar’s condition was and examine how it was, or was not, responded to. We have yet to hear from the hospital and the medical professionals involved as to what precisely happened, but with this report of her dying from E. coli ESBL one wonders how killing Halappanavar’s baby Prasa would have killed the E. coli.
Is it possible that E. coli ESBL ascended her vagina and entered her uterus via the dilated cervix? Yes, that’s possible. But it’s also possible that her cervix dilated (thus initiating a miscarriage) because E. coli ESBL ascended her urinary tract and caused an infection in her kidneys, which can lead to uterine contractions, and if not treated, to cervical change.
So the infection could have been elsewhere in her body besides the uterus. Even if it was in the latter (a condition known as chorioamnionitis) then it is an ethical course of action to induce labour to eliminate this pathological and lethal condition (the presence of infected membranes) from her uterus. But that act itself wouldn’t have eliminated the E. coli ESBL if it actually originated in the urinary tract, which, if resistant to interventions like antibiotics, could have lead to the septicaemia.
And yet, The Toronto Star would have you believe, “There’s a very simple reason why Savita died. It’s because she wasn’t listened to.” On the contrary, much more needs to be known about how she died. But what we do know is that jumping to the conclusion that abortion should be legalized in Ireland overlooks the underlying medical condition and makes the dangerous assumption that we need to kill one person to save another.
Stephanie Gray is executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (http://www.unmaskingchoice.ca) and author of A Physician’s Guide to Discussing Abortion.