Savita Had a Heartbeat, Too

See all our coverage of the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar here.

For days now, I’ve been putting myself in Savita Halappanavar’s shoes.

I’m expecting. Seventeen weeks in, piercing pain sends me to the hospital. For three days, I’m miscarrying. There’s no hope for my child and my own health is fading. For three days, I’m in physical agony and doctors refuse my pleas to terminate the pregnancy to save my life. The child won’t survive, but there is a “heartbeat” and doctors fear terminating will violate my country’s laws. The unthinkable happens.

The tragedy that ended Savita’s life put a human face on the abortion issue. People are demonstrating in droves and even the Indian government is pressuring Ireland to change its laws. One demonstrator held a placard reading, “Savita had a heartbeat, too.”

For many of us, the disregard for women’s human rights in the name of religion just became personal. When I see Savita’s face, I can’t help thinking that she looks like me and, like me, was educated and could afford health care—but she still suffered this indefensible fate. Everyone knew the child could not survive, but that Savita could with proper care.

What does it say about a society when it leaves a woman to die in the name of “life?”

Where is the respect for women’s lives? This irony pervades the politics surrounding women’s health in my own country, the United States. Right-wing calls for abortion bans not only keep women from living full lives of our choosing, but often fail to include exceptions for our health or death. Most of those backing these so-called “pro-life” measures are also the ones blocking efforts to provide equal pay, health care, and safety net programs women and children rely on. It seems their concern for life ends when a baby is born.

And, if this can happen to someone like Savita, a doctor herself, what about more vulnerable women? As U.S. conservatives rush to eliminate the right to choose, it is poor women, disproportionately of color, who are seeing that right fade most quickly. It is these women who often cannot afford abortions, or do not have the time and know-how to see a provider during their first trimester. Twenty-week bans and funding cuts are not only sexist, but covertly racist and classist, too.

As I plan my own future and explore whether parenthood is right for me, I am thankful I live in a place where abortion is legal and safe, and that I can afford the right to choose. I am thankful that women have always been resilient in my country, and that we have a long history of fighting for and winning reproductive rights.

With strength and courage, women in the United States have come a long way. But our journey is not complete. Too many women are still left out and too many lawmakers threaten to send us back to a time when Savita’s story could happen here. That’s why I work to not only preserve the rights I have, but to expand them for all women— because we all have a heartbeat, too.

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  • crowepps

    Instead of providing standard medical care and adhering to best practices, when it comes to women they will provide only Catholic care: unnecessary suffering, required self-abnegation and forced martyrdom.

    It is not better to save one life while murdering another. It is not better that the mother live the rest of her existence having had her child killed.”  Bishop Olmsted

  • tazzle

    A family member recently had a termination of a pregnancy of an anencephalic fetus. The family priest was shockingly understanding about inducing labor at six months instead of allowing it to go to term, which I’m sure the Church should have been against. A baby born without a brain usually lasts only a day or a few days since the brain regulates breathing, body temperature and even the beating of the heart via the vagus nerve. The fetus died within minutes after delivery and received Last Rites. If this had been Ireland, she would have been forced to carry such a hopeless pregnancy to term, knowing each and every day that it was a futile and terrible endeavor, with the baby’s existence being protracted after birth by hours or days of being unable to breath properly, be constantly freezing, having seizures, having heart episodes, having organ systems failures, until his exhausted little body finally died. This is what the “pro-life” lobby would do. The poor little thing died peacefully in it’s mother’s arms within minutes after it’s delivery at six months vs. suffering for hours or days at term. But, logic and compassion aren’t what motivates the religious right.

  • veggietart

    Olmsted’s comments were in response to Mary McBride, a nun at a Catholic hospital in Arizona.  Sister McBride made the decision to allow a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant to have an abortion when her life was threatened with pulmonary hypertension.  I guess Olmsted thought it would be better for the woman to have died, leaving behind a husband and four children.  And they claim to value the sanctity of life.  

  • liberaldem

    I’m thankful that your family member was able to make her own decision about ending that sad pregnancy, and she has a compassionate, genuinely spirtual priest who helped her during such a sad event in her life. How much more merciful it was for her to be able to hold and comfort her child during its very brief life.

    Your comment reinforces how very important it is that women have the ability to make these decisions for themselves.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    The irony and outrage is that McBride was excommunicated for obeying Catholic protocols:  the fetus was delivered intact and would have survived had it been older.  Olmsted was livid that she didn’t follow his mother-killing Simon-Sez moving goal posts of leaving the dead rotting fetus inside to murder the has-been brood mare.  Motherless children are so much easier to molest and the widower could have gotten himself a new brood mare.  Moreover, the whole debacle could have been avoided if the mother had been properly sterilized before this guaranteed killer pregnancy, but she was bullied to rely on the NFP hoax!

  • veggietart

    Aren’t Catholics against sterilization as well?

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Yes, but Olmsted was criminally extorting the Catholic mother to choose between losing her husband with total abstinence until menopause, or suiciding with NFP.  Olmsted should be in jail!  Opposition to effective contraception caused the whole fiasco.  The mother should sue and criminally charge him and Poop Nazinger for nearly killing her.

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