This is a true story from a country in Europe, a country that one would normally deem civilized.
The sequence of events is this:
1. A foreign woman (country unspecified) arrives in the European country, seeking asylum.
2. The woman is eight weeks pregnant, and the pregnancy is due to a rape.
3. The country in question prohibits abortion except in cases when the pregnancy will result in the mother’s death. Those cases can include a mother’s potential suicide. They do not include rape, incest, or fetal deformity.
4. The pregnant woman is suicidal and wants an abortion badly. She presents herself at the hospital and requests an abortion shortly after her arrival in the European country.
5. To approve abortion under the law in those cases, however, requires unanimous approval of a panel of several physicians.
6. The panel is convened: two psychiatrists and an obstetrician. The psychiatrists concur that an abortion is warranted by the woman’s suicidality, but the obstetrician, while agreeing with the potential suicidality, doesn’t go along because he considers the fetus viable. By this time the woman is 21-23 weeks into her pregnancy.
7. The woman, in protest, goes on a hunger strike, intending to kill herself through starvation or dehydration.
8. Determined to have its child, the country straps the woman to a bed and forcibly feeds her through a nasogastric tube.
9. Finally, at about 25 weeks after conception, the fetus is forcibly removed from the woman by caesarian section. Reports are that it is healthy and will be given into state care.
Okay, which country has those kind of draconian abortion laws (prohibiting it even in cases of rape an incest), and not only overrules a woman’s clear suicidality, in violation of the law, but then straps her to a bed and forcibly feeds her, keeping the baby alive until she can be cut open and the fetus extracted? How many violations is that, by the way? I count three horrible and unwanted penetrations.
It’s Ireland, of course, and the law applying here (a new and supposedly liberalized one) is heavily conditioned by the wishes of the Catholic Church. Before 2013, no abortions were allowed in Ireland under any circumstances. Irish women who wanted abortions had to travel abroad (usually to England) to get them. That, too, had been illegal until 1992, when Irish courts ruled that pregnant women could not be prevented from traveling even if authorities suspected they were off to get an abortion. Still, Irish women who were poor for such a journey were forced to stay home and bear the child.
Then came the highly publicized death of death in 2012 of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway. 17 weeks pregnant, Halappanavar sought an abortion because her fetus was infected and she was miscarrying; of course the mother was infected as well. The hospital refused an abortion and, on October 28, the woman died of septicemia after the dead fetus was finally removed and the woman given antibiotics—too late.
This debacle led to the passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (pdf at link), supposedly remedying the problems with the Halappanavar case. But the “liberalization” consisted only of allowing abortion when the mother’s life was endangered by suicidality (not fetal infection or deformity)—suicidality caused by something like rape or incest. Rape or incest alone was not sufficient: a woman is, by law, forced to bear her rapist’s baby, even if she doesn’t want it, so long as she is not suicidal. The act also allows a woman to leave the country to obtain an abortion (something prohibited previously), but in the case of this refugee, that may have been difficult, for she would have needed a special visa to re-enter Ireland and, at any rate, it’s not clear that the woman was even informed that she had this right. Nor do we know whether she could even afford the trip.
Does the Catholic Church show any sympathy here? Don’t make me laugh. It simply piles insult on top of injury: the newest Catholic bishop of Ireland, Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin, saw went public with his opinion that the woman should have been forced to stay pregnant for longer:
[Doran] said the church has always taken the view that legislation “certainly doesn’t resolve the concerns”.
“You are creating greater risks for the child by terminating pregnancy at an early stage,” he said.
He also said: “I don’t think that anybody has established the right of a mother to terminate the pregnancy because she feels that she’s at risk of suicide”.
The Bishop described the early delivery of the baby as “not without its difficulties” and “simply not a healthy option” given that the normal period of pregnancy is somewhere around 38 – 40 weeks.
He said to terminate the pregnancy at 24 weeks with a caesarean “places the child more seriously at risk”.
The Bishop questioned what assistance the State provided the woman with her psychiatric problems.
He said he has seen “nothing to suggest that there is a good reason why” the pregnancy could not have progressed to full term.