Tag Archive for Abortion

Denied abortion, Indian woman dies in Ireland


By Team FI

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman died at the Galway hospital in Ireland, after being denied a life-saving abortion, reports Galway Pro-Choice organisation.

On October 21st, Savita Halappanavar was admitted to the University College Hospital, Galway, after complaining of severe back pain. Though asked at first to go home as her doctor expected her condition to be fine, Savita suffered a miscarriage. She was then told that the foetus had no chance of survival and that it would be all over within a few hours.

However, the foetal heartbeat continued over next two days and repeated requests by Savita and her husband to remove the foetus were denied. By Tuesday, her cervix had been fully open for nearly 72 hours, increasing the risk of infection. Savita developed septicemia. The foetus was not removed until Wednesday afternoon, when the foetal heartbeat stopped. Her condition did not improve and she died on Sunday, October 28th.

According to a press statement by Galway Pro-Choice, had the foetus been removed when it became clear that it could not survive, her cervix would have been closed and her chance of infection would have been reduced.

Though abortion is illegal in Ireland, in 1992, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that Irish women are entitled to abortion when it is necessary to save their life. However, this legislation was never passed. Leaving a woman’s cervix open constitutes a clear risk to her life. What is unclear is how medics in the country are expected to act in this situation.

“Deaths like Savitas’ are the most severe consequence of the criminalisation of abortion…We must reflect long and hard on the implications of Savita’s tragic and untimely passing, and we must act to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.” says Sarah McCarthy of Galway Pro-Choice.

“We have to understand that the real, devastating tragedy of Savita’s story is a part of a larger picture. Irish governments have repeatedly failed to clarify the legal status of abortion in Ireland. We don’t yet know how many Savitas have died in our hospitals before in similar circumstances”. States Feminist Society of the National University of Ireland, Galway.

For years now, women’s rights activists in the country have been demanding legalisation of abortion.

Photo courtesy: The Irish Times

Related reading: The Silencing of Women: The Irish Abortion Laws and Religion


Women: Occupy the Left

occupy-wall-street Photo by Marnie Joyce.

For the Left, women’s inequality seems to exist only in the context of the workplace and feminism is largely ignored. There’s hope for the Occupy Movement though, with its ideological openness and the presence of large number of young women activists

By Katha Pollitt

Women’s rights have always been a bit of an add-on for the left. At this spring’s Left Forum, only fifteen of 440 panels touched on any feminist issue, broadly understood. New Left Review is famous, at least in my apartment, for its high testosterone content (despite being edited by a woman); ditto Verso, the left’s flagship publishing house, where women authors are as rare as Siberian tigers. And it’s not just the left—women’s rights, in fact women period, tend to get set aside whenever economics or “class” is the focus.

Occupy Wall Street’s initial declaration, a long list of grievances from colonialism to the maltreatment of “nonhuman animals,” mentioned women’s inequality only in the context of the workplace—no mention of the systematic inequality that affects every area of life. Occupy Austin went further: a paper put out by its Language of Unity Working Group describes Occupy Austin as “radically inclusive,” open to everyone from disaffected Tea Partiers to Greens and anarchists, as well as homeless people and “soccer moms looking for a cause” (not too patronizing!) and highlighting only “the things that bring people together.” “For instance, you will never see Occupy approach the issue of abortion. It is too derisive (sic). Rather than championing one side, the huge innovation of the Occupy movement is its focus only on issues which unite people. We care most about people and care what most people support.”

Hmmm. Let’s leave aside for the moment the question of whether caring “most about people” is compatible with silence on state-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds, personhood amendments and so on—let alone forced childbirth. I would think that when one in three women has at least one abortion, and when virtually all women have used birth control, we are talking about issues that affect “most people”—including most men, who benefit greatly from women’s ability to control their fertility. Let’s not look too closely, either, at the assumption that the 99 percent constitutes a coherent category: that a software engineer, a car salesman, a Chinese-food delivery man, a rabbi, a municipal clerk, a fashion photographer and a cleaning lady really have the same interests. The notion of common cause, even among the actual working class, is as much a romantic and aspirational construction, as much a matter of “identity politics,” as the oft-derided ideal of “sisterhood.”

You know the slogan “Women’s rights are human rights”? Well, women’s rights are economic rights, too. When it comes to reproductive issues, apparently, the connection needs to be spelled out. So here it is: limiting women’s access to birth control and abortion is not “culture war” theater, and it is not just a “social issue” either. It’s an economic issue.

1. Early childbearing, most of which is unplanned, has a big effect on women’s education. According to Centers for Disease Control fact sheet, “Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.” While this partly reflects the fact that poorer, less school-oriented girls are more likely to give birth, it’s clear that having a baby as a teenager creates serious economic stress.

2. Birth control is expensive. Many insurance plans don’t cover all methods; some don’t cover any method (looking at you, Catholic Church!). Annual cost of the Pill can range from a low $108 a year for generic ortho-cyclen to an astronomical $1,140 for Loestrin. The IUD, a highly effective method many plans don’t cover, costs around $1,000 for insertion.

Photo Courtesy: Feminist Online Spaces

3. Abortion is expensive. A first-trimester abortion costs around $500. After that the price climbs quickly: at twenty weeks, it’s more than $1,000. A late abortion for medical complications can cost several thousand—assuming the woman can find one. And this is just for the procedure, not for the hassles heaped on women by clinic closings, waiting periods and other restrictions—transportation, childcare, hotel bills. These burdens fall mostly on women themselves. The Hyde Amendment bars federal funding; most insurance plans do not cover it; only seventeen states fund Medicaid coverage for medically necessary abortions.

4. Childbirth is expensive. Childcare is expensive. Having a baby lowers women’s earnings dramatically, but it boosts men’s. Welfare? A dream of the past. Child support from the other parent? Good luck with that. According to the Census Bureau, “Of the $35.1 billion in child support due in 2009, 61.0 percent was reported as received, averaging $3,630 per custodial parent.” (One in six of those custodial parents is a man.)

And if all that wasn’t enough, women are charged more for the same or virtually the same products, from health insurance ($1 billion more a year!) to dry cleaning. To say nothing of the economic burdens of stalking, domestic violence, rape and the fear of rape.

It may be too late for the late-middle-aged old new left to take feminism to heart. There’s hope for Occupy, though, with its plethora of young women activists and ideological openness. In New York, Women Occupying Wall Street, the women’s caucus of OWS, is planning a Feminist General Assembly for May 17 at 6:30pm in Washington Square. I’ll be there, and will report back.

Katha Pollitt is an American feminist poet, essayist and critic living in Berlin. She writes the award-winning column, “Subject to Debate,” for The Nation magazine. This article was originally published in The Nation. Copyright ©Agence Global

Featured Photo by Marnie Joyce


Vatican Slams American Nuns for Feminist Thinking

Photo by Michele Oliveira

An umbrella group of Catholic nuns in America was targeted by a Vatican investigation that accused them of being silent on abortion, homosexuality and disagreeing politically with American Bishops

By Team FI

On 18 April, 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith accused an umbrella group of American nuns – the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), of having “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life”. The report has stunned the organisation, sending shockwaves through the community.

The sore points for the Vatican were that American nuns chose not to propagate the Church’s stand when it came to issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and ordination of women and the report equated silence to endorsement. LCWR came in for particular criticism.

As per the report “While there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.” The Vatican has given the organisation a period of five years to tow the party line or face consequences and has appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee the work.

LCWR responded in a statement on their website that they are “stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The organisation’s working partner – Network, a Washington, DC lobbying group founded by Catholic sisters in 1971, involved in healthcare and poverty programmes was also targeted. Letters from a few in the group were cited as “protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons.”

“I’ve no idea what they’re talking about,” Sister Simone Campbell, head of Network, told the BBC. “It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue,” Campbell said.

The report has also criticised American nuns for taking political stands that were in direct contravention of positions held by the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”.  Sister Campbell felt that the report was a result of Network’s support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. “There’s a strong connection,” she said. “We didn’t split on faith, we split on politics.” The nuns had chosen to disagree with American Bishops who viewed the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act as backing state-funded abortion.

The investigation which began in 2009 apparently has its roots in the decreasing numbers of Catholic women choosing to become nuns – from 180,000 in 1965 to less than 60,000 currently.

The Vatican-ordered investigation called the Apostolic Visitation had Mother Mary Clare Millea, who has a doctorate in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, investigate the matter. As per a report in The Daily Beast, Mother Mary Clare Millea “visited scores of religious houses and convents and interviewed hundreds of mothers superior who oversee the nearly 400 religious congregations in the United States. She excluded nuns living in cloistered or contemplative convents and instead focused on the 57,000 religious women who work in schools, agencies for the poor, universities, and churches.”

Her findings were submitted to the Cardinal William Levada, head of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who would in turn write the final report which would be approved by Pope Benedict XVI.

Featured photo by Michele Oliveira