Wednesday 14 November 2012

Savita Halappanavar - A life lost but let it not be in vain!

Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital 

(Click on heading above to read story from Irish Times)

This was the horror story that Ireland woke up to this morning! 

As the day progressed many voices from the ‘pro-life’ lobby protested that this tragedy was being used by some to further the cause of abortion legislation in Ireland and that it was far too soon to rush to judgement on the basis of newspaper articles alone. It was also argued that our existing case law arising from the ‘X’ case would have allowed for a termination and that the fault lay with the medical practitioners rather than the legislature.

Whatever the truth in this specific case, and it is indeed true that we cannot be sure of the whole story at this early stage, it is obvious that the current situation is untenable. It seems that despite the ruling on the ‘X’ case there is enough ambiguity and uncertainty around the grounds for a lawful termination to suggest that the events that may have led to the death of Savita Halappanavar could yet be repeated. That is an unacceptable prospect and so something must be done. Twenty years of political inactivity appears to have resulted in the most bitter of fruit.

Not surprisingly there is no political appetite to legislate for the ‘X’ case. Abortion is the single most divisive and dangerous issue that any politician will engage with. It seems almost impossible to have a reasoned and tempered discussion on the issue without it descending into bilateral abuse and rhetoric. The main problem it seems to me with this debate as it has been conducted to date is that it is dominated by the extremes. The ‘Pro-life’ and ‘Pro-choice’ groups have set themselves up in direct opposition to one another and any who occupy the middle ground run the risk of being caught in the crossfire and so have been sidelined and silenced. This despite the fact that this middle ground may well be in the majority.

There is fault to be found in both of the polar opposites as they have positioned themselves. The ‘Pro-choice’ group have failed to take seriously enough the fact that abortion is always a tragedy and should not be glossed over callously as no more significant than a tooth extraction. Whether abortion on demand (which incidentally I am absolutely opposed to) or due to threat to the mother’s life, rape or unviability of foetus, it is the termination of life and to minimize that is to undermine our own humanity. I say this not as a religious person, which I am, but as a human being. Respect for life is not the sole preserve of the religious.

When it comes to the ‘Pro-life’ group the principal fault is ironically the failure to take seriously the life of the mother. Their pro-life stance is somewhat selective. The mother is portrayed as a vessel whose sole purpose is to support the life within her with no account for her own humanity, welfare and integrity. Her motivations in choosing abortion, no matter how traumatic or medically necessary, are ignored and her actions are described in terms of murder regardless of the circumstances. This is cruel and for want of a better word tantamount to misogyny.

The only hope for a reasonable debate and a mature and responsible approach to this issue which we have never faced up to as a nation is for the middle ground to find its voice. There is an alternative to the current polarisation which has poisoned any attempts to find a way forward. It is possible to be both ‘Pro-Life’ and ‘Pro-Choice’. We can simultaneously respect the right to life of the unborn and the life of the mother. Sometimes sadly there will be a conflict and difficult choices may need to be made but if those decisions are made in the context of an overarching respect for all life then while there will be pain our integrity as human beings is maintained. If we refuse to let the extremes dictate the agenda the previously vacated middle ground can become common ground and we can show the world that there is a third way that isn’t about mothers v babies but rather about discovering a much richer and comprehensive reverence for all life 

PS: Worth reading this which comes from friend and fellow blogger Ferdinand Von Prondzynski: Cruel Principles?

Civil Conversations - Learning to Disagree

My all time favourite Radio show / Podcast OnBeing with Krista Tippett is running a series at the moment on the 'Civil Conversations Project' - The conversations hosted by Krista herself deal with all the hot button issues of our time but in a way that brings new light and hope into our human condition.
An earlier series of these conversations can be found here.
Each of the conversations is in podcast,video & transcript format.