Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Savita Halappanavar: abortion was the last thing she needed

On Monday, November 19, The Herald published a Letter to the Editor from one Veronica Wikman. Ms Wikman is unknown to me but she describes herself on line as “a native Swedish linguist and freelance translator, living in Edinburgh since 1997”.

Her letter was headed “Ireland must adopt a more enlightened approach to the rights of women” and it began: “Savita Halappanavar can now be added to the long list of women who have been killed in the name of religion...”

Naturally, on reading this I immediately drafted a reply. And equally naturally, I found on Tuesday morning that it had not been published. Nor was it published today, Wednesday. (Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose).

My epistle to The Editor at The Herald read:

“Dear Sir

Savita Halappanavar, aged 31 years, an Indian citizen (from Belgaum, Karnataka) and a Hindu who practised locally as a dentist, died on October 28 in University Hospital, Galway, Ireland. The cause of death has been reported in India to have been “severe septicaemia with disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a life-threatening bleeding disorder which is a complication of sepsis, major organ damage and loss of the mother’s blood due to severe infection” (The Hindu, Bangalore, Friday, Nov 16).

The Hindu interviewed one of India’s leading consultants in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Hema Divakar, President-elect of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI). The informed observations of this professional put the lie to the accusation that Mrs Halappanavar can “be added to the long list of women who have been killed in the name of religion” (Veronica Wilkman, Letters, Nov 19).

Dr Divakar told The Hindu: “Based on information in the media, in that situation of septicaemia, if the doctors had meddled with the live baby, Savita would have died two days earlier.” That is, medically abortion was contra-indicated.

In some quarters, it has been suggested that because Mrs Halappanavar was a dentist by profession she would have been much more aware of the medical implications of what was happening to her and thus if she had begged the doctors to perform an abortion, they should have obliged.

But Dr Divakar stated: “Having understood that the baby was not going to make it, the couple would have asked for termination. But as Savita’s infection may have required aggressive treatment at that stage, doctors must have felt the need to prevent complications. The usual [practice] is to meddle the least till the mother is stable.”

Sadly, the outcome was tragic. But it wasn’t that tragic that the pro-abortion lobby was going to pass up what it saw as a huge opportunity to bring pressure to bear on the Irish government. They then spent two weeks preparing last week’s spontaneous demonstrations and news stories.

It should be remembered that midwifery care in Ireland is amongst the best in the world; much safer than it is either here or in the USA. At least three women died last year in England and Wales from abortion gone wrong. God knows how many died in the USA. None did in Ireland.

Yours etc”

I would like to point out that the names of the three women who died have been published on the SPUC website, but I had no wish to bring further distress to the families and friends of the deceased.

One is left wondering why The Herald did not publish my letter. Too long? No, at 387 words it is 13 short of the magical figure of 400 (which they often ignore anyway). Factually controversial? Hardly, it would take a newspaperman only a couple of minutes to check on line that my references weren't bogus. Badly written?Well, others must judge that but at least one communications professional who has read it described it as "excellent".

So bias seems the only likely explanation. Surprise, surprise.

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