Woman Who Was Sexually Assaulted Is Forced To Give Birth In Ireland

Abortion, Sexism

**Originally 8/23/14 published on Liberal America  (yes they’re horrible it’s why I left) posting since today is the vote to repeal the 8th amendment which is mentioned at the end of this piece.

In the United States reproductive justice and reproductive rights activists warn of what our country will look like if abortion restrictions are allowed to continue. What would happen if we only allowed exceptions for sexually assaulted, incest, health and the life of the pregnant person? Would that protect women? A current case in Ireland gives us the perfect example of why we say no.

 When Savita Halappanavar age 31 died in 2012 while 17 weeks pregnant from sepsis after being refused an abortion to complete her miscarriage. Some were hopeful things in Ireland would change at least a bit. So in 2013 when the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act passed in the wake of her death many hoped maybe just maybe women would be a bit safer. However groups like Doctors for Choice warned that the panel system the law put in place was flawed from the beginning.

“When I came to this country I thought I could forget suffering”- Young woman forced to give birth

The woman, a teen who is an asylum seeker from an unnamed country experiencing conflict according to the Irish Independent was sexually assaulted before entering Ireland. She discovered she was pregnant while under the care of an organization serving asylum seekers. According to the BBC when she was 8 weeks pregnant she expressed she would rather die than bear her rapist’s child. Despite that explicit statement and requesting to receive an abortion at that time it appears she was bounced around asylum agencies without being referred to the appropriate agency to start the process to formally request an abortion under the law.

At 16 weeks pregnant she received counseling from a family planning organisation. According to the Irish Times she said she attempted to take her own life at 16 weeks pregnant, when told by a counselor at the Irish Family Planning Association the costs of travelling to Britain for an abortion could be as high as 1,500 euros or almost $2,000 US dollars. In addition to having no money she speaks no English and as a non citizen has no visa. Sidenote Bpas an abortion provider in England states around 4,500 woman a year go come from Ireland to access abortion care.

She was admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks due to expressing suicidal thoughts. When admitted she was told she could not have an abortion because her pregnancy was too far along. She then went on a hunger and liquid strike. Only after all of that was a three expert panel finally called to determine if she should be allowed to terminate her pregnancy. The panel, made up of two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, found she was indeed suicidal. The psychiatrists were in agreement that she was suicidal, a requirement to get an abortion under the Irish law. The obstetrician however felt that at this point the best course was not an abortion but delivery of the fetus regardless of what the woman wanted. They also got an order from the high court to re-hydrate and feed her.

They said the pregnancy was too far. It was going to have to be a Cesarean section,” the woman told the paper.

They said, wherever you go in the world, the United States, anywhere, at this point it has to be a Cesarean.”

If true this means they blatantly lied to her. Women in the US can and do get abortions at 24 and 25 weeks pregnant especially in extreme situations like these.

She told the Irish Times she ended her hunger strike when she was told she could have an abortion and would need to be strong for surgery. She then was ultimately told her only option was a c-section. She was coerced into to “consenting” to surgery. The baby boy was delivered at between 24 and 25 weeks gestation earlier this month. He is said to be going into the care of the state. Now all this compounded trauma is with her always.

When I came to this country I thought I could forget suffering… The scar [from the C-section] will never go away. It will always be a reminder. I still suffer. I don’t know if what has happened to me is normal. She adds: I just wanted justice to be done. For me, this is injustice.

In an emailed statement from Doctors for Choice Dr Mary Favier, a Cork based GP said

This case underlines the problems inherent in the legislation of balancing a woman’s rights with those of a foetus and threatening doctors with 14 years in prison for failing to do so. This is compounded by the requirement to use multiple doctors to certify eligibility (up to 7 medical assessments) and including an Obstetrician in certifying a risk of suicide.”

Via email, Katrine Thomasen, Legal Adviser for Europe and Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights stated:

Women face innumerable obstacles to access legal abortion services in Ireland, as well as discrimination which disproportionately impacts adolescents, asylum seekers, women with mental health problems and other vulnerable groups……Until Irish officials truly reform the country’s harsh abortion law, we will continue to hear about these incredible and tragic breaches of women’s fundamental human rights. It is high time that the government recognizes that there is only one solution: comprehensive legal reform to ensure that women can access abortion services and do not have to endure attacks on their health and well-being.?

Carol Simmons of the Pro Life Campaign during a rally anti choice groups held in support of the baby boy and Ireland’s abortion restriction said.

The woman presented herself for a termination and her pregnancy was terminated.”

Yeah sure you could say that (I wouldn’t) except she never wanted to be pregnant or a parent. Now even though she’s relinquished her rights to the child by all reports, the state has forced her to be a parent after giving her no option but a very invasive surgery. I won’t even go into how that c-section could impact her future health and pregnancies if she chooses to have any. After having her body violated by her attacker it was violated again by the Republic of Ireland. Groups like Doctors for Choice are calling for an investigation into possible human rights abuses in the treatment of the young woman.

Dr Mary Favier summed it up well

“‘If a young rape victim, certified as requiring an abortion due to the risk of suicide cannot access abortion services then the legislation and its implementation are clearly fatally flawed.”

Click here to see over 3,000 gather in Dublin to support abortion rights and the repeal of Ireland’s 8th amendment

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I Almost died Due To A Catholic Hospital Practicing “Fetal Personhood”

Abortion, Reproductive Justice, Uncategorized

**I originally posted this on my former blog the intelligent statistic speaks  I have edited it for clarity since it is some of my early writing.

*Note-I was motivated to write this in 2011 due to the upcoming ballot initiative to add a “fetal personhood” amendment to the Mississippi constitution. It was the first time I shared my story publicly. I started sharing it again the next year because it applied to HB 1196 the “heartbeat bill“. That bill had been killed but Rep.Andy Gipson stuck modified language in SB-2771 “Katie’s law” a child murder bill, (which led to the bill failing to pass). Although there is was exception for “life” of the mother my situation wasn’t considered life threatening  emergency until it was almost too late – MEDICINE SHOULD NOT BE PRACTICED BY LAWMAKERS AND RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISTS WRITING LAWS*

In the recesses of my mind there are so many experiences that make it impossible for me to support fetal personhood and abortion bans. No one ever thinks that one day they will be sitting down to tell the story of how they almost died due to being denied an abortion during a miscarriage. These are the stories you stuff deep in your soul and keep to yourself. Yet I feel every story like mine has to be told so that the lies of how the thinking behind personhood won’t hurt any women and will only save “babies” can be exposed.

I was 18 years old, a wife, a mother of beautiful twin girls. I was also solidly anti choice. During the 12-13th week of my second pregnancy I awoke in the middle of the night to the feeling of wetness between my thighs. A quick inspection found a pink discharge. So I rushed to the hospital ER.  After being given a once over I was told to go home, rest and return if I began to bleed. “You may be having a miscarriage but you aren’t right now” they said.

By mid morning I was bleeding; heavily. This time they gave me an ultrasound. They let me know I was indeed having a miscarriage. I was informed the fetus had not developed normally. The embryo had actually stopped growing at 8-9 weeks, but since they detected a faint heartbeat and this was a Catholic hospital they could not do a D&C (*cough* abortion). There policy is NO ABORTIONS. I was again instructed to go home, rest and wait. At this point I, an uninsured low wage worker had made 2 visits to the ER and could see the bills piling up.

Within a few hours of returning home I was experiencing bad cramping, passing big blood clots and bleeding so heavily that I took my young daughters diapers to catch the blood, a normal pad was not enough. I was afraid if I went back to the hospital they weren’t going to do anything. Frankly, we didn’t have the money for another fruitless visit. When you have basically been patted on the head and told to go home twice it’s easy to feel that way. So I carried on with my day as normal. I was sitting on the phone with a friend at my mother’s apartment next door when I fell out of my chair and passed out. All can remember the feeling of the cold floor and my husband’s voice saying “oh my God wake up” while my grandmother yelled “call an ambulance”. By the time the ambulance arrived I was going into shock and my veins were collapsing making starting an IV hard. I was in and out of consciousness on the ride to the hospital. At that moment I had no idea how much blood I had lost or that I was really close to death. I was well aware by the time we arrived at the hospital. I could feel it and the reactions of staff confirmed it.

It took five tries to start another IV line for the blood transfusion I was now in need of, in fact the doctor had to come and do it. My most vivid memory is of my family doctor (a former Ob/Gyn), who was now working his ER shift, yelling in the hall “WHO THE FUCK SENT HER HOME! She could have died!” After they stabilized me a bit I was rushed to emergency surgery for a D&C (abortion they just call it by another name so you feel better) to remove any remaining tissue from my body and stop me from continuing to bleed uncontrollably. It was to be performed by the same Ob/Gyn who had sent me home, twice.

As I was about to be put under I said to the anesthesiologist “please don’t let him kill me”. All I wanted in that moment was to get home to my little twin girls. After surgery I was placed on the maternity floor. The nurse on duty found me crying and said “don’t worry, you’re young you can have more”. Not only was there no compassion for my experience but no acknowledgment that I had just avoided death. After a day in the hospital and almost a week off work my life slowly returned to normal. What angers me is it didn’t have to be like that.

Luckily sometime while I was bleeding to death at home that day I passed the embryo. I often wonder what would have happened if I had not. Would they have even have saved my life or would they have let me die due to a non viable “person” inside of me? Never once did this hospital tell me I could go somewhere else, somewhere non-religious, somewhere that didn’t believe fetuses are people and abortion is murder. They cared more about a 13 week non progressing embryo than me, a living breathing woman. A wife, mother, daughter, and granddaughter and most important a PERSON! A woman who went on to “choose life” 5 more times. Somehow I was not part of the equation only my pregnancy was. To them I lost my rights when I became pregnant apparently even my right to quality healthcare.

I hadn’t thought much about that day until recently because people keep saying that initiative 26 aka the personhood bill will not change the way women are treated by their doctors. My experience with a hospital governed by the same beliefs that this bill is based on says otherwise and I am not alone and studies prove it. I’ll never understand what made a nonviable pregnancy that could not be saved more worthy than living breathing thinking ME. My life should have mattered. My children needing a mother should have mattered. My future should have mattered.

 I think about the consequences for women and their access to birth control. Young women like my daughter who isn’t on birth control to prevent pregnancy but because she has PMDD which causes such profound mood swings before her period we call it “hell week”. Women who like me have fibroids, which led to my hysterectomy, but the first line of treatment often is birth control pills. Women trapped in abusive relationships who use birth control to gain back control of their lives so they are not trapped in their relationship forever. Just some facts women who are in domestic violence relationships are very likely to have birth control sabotage be apart of their abusers arsenal of control. Abusers know that a woman is less likely to leave if pregnant and even if she does he will have access to her for the next eighteen years of her life through her child. Women who just don’t want to have children, ever and that’s ok. All the trans* and non gender conforming people who need access. The families who want to space and control their fertility.

I wonder why when I talk to people about 26 women no matter if they agree or not seem willing to listen but men are angry and loud in their opposition to women having abortion as an option or saying that our bodies matter. I have heard many comments about women needing to live with the consequences of their actions. Even going so far as to declare pregnancies that happen due to rape or incest acts of God that women should be made to suffer through because it’s God’s will. There is a language of divine intervention and women knowing their places as baby carriers. No one should be made to gestate unless they want to regardless of how their pregnancy occurred.

If you pause to think about it it’s a scary thought. It made me think about the “personhood” movement as a whole and how I don’t believe that the consequences to reproductive choices outside of abortion are an accident or collateral damage. It is by design. Women with choices is a scary concept to many people especially cis hetero men. Not being able to shame women through evidence of our sexual behavior doesn’t make them very happy either. When you take away abortion, birth control, and access to IVF many of the things that the people behind “personhood” dislike the most can no longer happen. Women will NOT have control over their reproductive choices. the last option, condom use, will be primarily in the hands of men.

History should tell use how well that works. Same sex couples, trans and single people will not be able to use IVF to create a family outside of conservative religious norms. People will not be able to avoid stigma or shame brought on by unplanned pregnancy and have healthier sex lives (especially teens).

No I don’t think it is an accident that this amendment will have the power to do many things that the conservative movement wants to do. Initiative 26 essentially has the power to turn back the clock on reproductive choices for ALL families. I can’t help but think……….. how 1950s of them.