This is our truth, tell us yours
It is a year since a young woman died in an Irish Hospital, begging for the simple operation that would have saved her life, we thought it might be timely to remember Savita and all those like her by revisiting posts we wrote at the time.
Consent, it is a recurring theme of this blog, as it is at the heart of everything we do. The line that divides what we do in private from abuse, domestic or otherwise, it not my masochism, or desires, but the fact I consent. My desire to please, to submit, to be taken to those places only one person can take me may be complicated, may come in part from my masochism, my desire to test every possible boundary, but he can only lead me to those places because I have given him full and enthusiastic consent. He may be interested in exploring dominance and pain, but only with a willing, finally smiling, partner.
Those who are of the right, whether anti sex rad fem or mouth frothing Christian have a problem with consent, especially when it comes to women. We are apparently not qualified to decide what to do with our bodies, be it bending for a cane, selling sexual services or choosing to have an abortion. They both see women as weak, easily manipulated creatures who must be protected from their own bad decisions. (Bad being doing something they morally disapprove of).
Which brings us, by a perhaps unexpected route to the case of Savita Halappanavar.
Imagine that moment when you discover you are pregnant with a much longed for child. In my case the thin blue line meant a dance around the bathroom and shrieking with excitement You start to plan, even though you know it is early days, if you have a partner you get to double your joy, books are bought and comparisons with fruit become part of your daily vocabulary. (Today the size of a grape, next week a plum).
Imagine abdominal pain, that hovering fear of pregnancy that something might be wrong. Imagine going to the hospital to be told by the midwives you are fully dilated, your baby is dying and there is nothing you can do. I have, along with millions of women, miscarried. Even the word speaks of the pain and guilt you associate with it. Your body has failed, at this most basic of human functions, it can attack women at their very core, even if, as in my case, it is early and relativity pain free.
This was not the case for Savita, she not only had the emotional pain of knowing her pregnancy was over, the dreams and hopes she had for her son or daughter withering to ashes, but she also had intense physical pain. According to her husband after a day of this she asked, or begged for termination In many countries she would have been not only given this, but given time to mourn, time with her born too early child, time to take pictures and say goodbye. Parents who have lost a child through miscarriage or premature birth say this time helps with the grieving process, and to eventually move forward. These births are often the result of medical intervention, an abortion, when the fetus had died for example. This does not mean the baby would not have been loved or cherished, or the sorrow is any less.
Consent, remember what I said up there, that some believe that women just cannot be trusted with consent, that we will misuse it or abuse it, that we need to be protected from our vices. Just as our forbears believed we could not vote, or sign legal papers, or own property, so anti abortionists believe we can not be trusted to consent to what happens to our own bodies.
Recounting her final days in UHG, her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, said: “Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning, Savita asked if they could not save the baby could they induce to end the pregnancy. The consultant said: ‘As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can’t do anything.’
“Again on Tuesday morning, the ward rounds and the same discussion. The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita [an Indian Hindu] said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’, but they said there was nothing they could do.
“That evening, she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took blood and started her on antibiotics.
“The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”
The law in Ireland ignores the primacy of consent, of a woman’s autonomy, of her right to decide what happens to her own body. The anti abortionists are kicking up a fuss that people are angry, that demos are being held. They ask us to wait for the inquiry, the inquest, they ask us to ignore the pleas of a woman in pain with a dying baby in her stomach. They ask us again to ignore consent Sadly pro choice activists are being dragged into this debate, perhaps no surprise when so may feminists also have problems with consent. What Savita died of is irrelevant the out come of the inquest is irrelevant She requested medical treatment, she asked that her right to bodily autonomy be respected, she spoke, and was silenced.
Hindus believe in the wheel of Karma, and that our actions in the past life will move us around that wheel. I hope she finds rebirth in a country that respects the concept of consent, in deed not just word.