Happy New Year!

The last year has been a difficult one for All Our Lives. 2013 marked our first year without our co-founder, Mary Krane Derr, who passed away late in 2012. Her insights, dedication, and fellowship are simply irreplaceable.

We miss you, Mary.

It’s been a rebuilding year, but we’re still moving forward. Looking ahead to 2014, we have a new board member and some new projects in the works. In particular, we are collaborating with another organization on a new outreach opportunity that I will be very excited to announce soon! I hope that for everyone who had a rough year in 2013, 2014 will be kinder to you.

And if you had a great 2013, may 2014 be even better!

By now, you’ve probably heard that the maker of the European emergency contraception pill NorLevo has changed its labeling to indicate that it is not effective in women weighing more than 80kg (176 pounds), and that it’s less effective in women who weigh 75 kg (165 pounds) or more.

What you may not have heard is that the NorLevo label was also updated to reflect the current scientific consensus on its method of action. The label now reads:

NorLevo works by stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg. It cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.

NorLevo is identical to Plan B One-Step, which is sold in the United States. The FDA should allow the manufacturers of Plan B, NextChoice, and other levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills to bring their labels up to date as well.

Our fact sheet, Emergency Contraception: The Facts Every Pro-Life Advocate Should Know, has been updated to include the news about NorLevo. Please share it with pro-lifers who are concerned about the possibility of emergency contraception acting as an abortifacient.

Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in the Senate, and Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) in the House, have re-introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the new Congress. PWFA would require companies to provide pregnant employees with the same types of accommodations that are required for disabled workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to Casey’s office:

Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The legislation will close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will accomplish this by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and preventing employers from forcing women out on leave when another reasonable accommodation would allow them to continue working. The bill also bars employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

In recent and startling examples, Amy Crosby, a hospital cleaner in Tallahassee, Florida, was forced into unpaid leave from her job when the hospital refused to accommodate her doctor’s request that she not lift more than 20 pounds because of her pregnancy; Heather Wiseman, a retail worker in Salina, Kansas, was fired because she needed to carry a water bottle to stay hydrated and prevent bladder infections; and Victoria Serednyj, an activity director at a nursing home in Valparaiso, Indiana, was terminated because she required help with some physically strenuous aspects of her job to prevent having another miscarriage. For the well-being of pregnant workers, and for the sake of the economic stability of American families, our laws must be updated and clarified.

The National Women’s Law Center has more information in their PWFA factsheet.

Preventing pregnant mothers from having to choose between the jobs they need to provide for their families on one hand, and their own health and the health of their unborn children on the other, is pro-life. If you agree and you are in the U.S., please contact your Senators and Representatives to ask them to cosponsor the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1975 in the House and S. 942 in the Senate).

Here are some talking points you can use in your email and phone call:

  • Women make up about half of the U.S. workforce. Two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2006 and 2008 worked during their pregnancies. Workers are not machines to be shaped to suit jobs — we are people who deserve to have our needs accommodated.
  • The PWFA relies on a reasonable accommodation framework already familiar to employers accustomed to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Most of the required accomodations are small and inexpensive for the employer — such as allowing employees to use a stool instead of standing or to have a water bottle with them as they work — but they can make a huge difference for the employee and her child.
  • If your Representative or Senator identifies as pro-life, remind them that they would be helping to protect the lives and health of unborn children as well as their mothers.

Please let us know how your call goes, or if you get a response to your email!

Three years ago, I attended a conference at Princeton that was intended to bring pro-life and pro-choice advocates together to find common ground. Its success was, shall we say, limited. But one moment of vehement agreement came when pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike expressed frustration with politicians who talk about their opposition to abortion and respect for life while at the same time cutting funding for social welfare programs.

You see, pregnancy assistance centers can’t meet the needs of the women and children they serve on their own. One of the services many centers provide is helping mothers connect with programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) so they and their children can get enough to eat. Centers like Birthright in Salina, Kansas:

“If this shutdown continues, girls won’t get the vouchers they need for baby formula,” said Linda Campbell, director of Birthright. “We will have hungry babies in Salina. A lot of our clients are very low-income. If they don’t get their WIC vouchers, who knows what will happen.

“I can’t see letting our babies go hungry and starve to death.”

The shutdown has left a portion of the federal workforce furloughed and services suspended, including funding for the WIC program that helps families up to 180 percent of the poverty line.

Campbell said Birthright, a crisis pregnancy service, helps women in need, giving emergency formula and other help. She said many of her clients are on WIC.

The government shutdown isn’t just a political game — it’s hurting real women and children.

It’s not just WIC, either. Domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers that receive federal funds authorized under the Violence Against Women Act and other programs face critical losses of funding. And then there are the cancelled cancer trials, the inability of the CDC to respond quickly to a widespread salmonella outbreak, the debilitating effects of loss of income on the households of federal employees, and so many more life-diminishing effects.

Democrats for Life is challenging pro-life groups to call for an end to the shutdown. We join them in that challenge.

US supporters: Please call and ask your Representative to end the shutdown with no strings attached. You can find your House members using Contacting the Congress. Please call and make the pro-life case against the shutdown.

Starting today, people in the U.S. who need health insurance can go to healthcare.gov to enroll in a plan through their states’ new exchanges.

There’s a lot for pro-lifers to love about health insurance reform. All plans offered on the exchanges must cover prenatal care, delivery, and care for mother and baby after birth. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, most individual insurance plans didn’t cover maternity care, and women who were already pregnant often couldn’t get insurance at all.

In addition to the reform of maternity care coverage, the ACA requires insurance plans to cover a number of preventive services with no cost-sharing. These include, but are definitely not limited to:

Having these vital preventive services available without a co-payment will help more women and children live healthy lives as well as making it easier for women to avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion.

* These are currently required to be covered for women but should be available without cost-sharing to everyone, in my opinion.

I recently became aware of a faction within the feminist movement calling itself the “Rad Fem” and/or “Womyn Born Womyn” movement. Those ascribing to this ideology hold that gender constructs are intractable. Those who are biologically male will always be male, even if the male in question identifies as a woman. (The same holds true for biological women who identify as male, though most rad fem analysis focuses on the former.) Because transwomen were initially reared as men, they have experienced male privilege. Hence, any man who transitions into a woman is appropriating the biological identity of women and imposing male perspectives unto the collective experience of women as a group. Such individuals view this alleged appropriation as misogynistic.

We live in a country where people are free to believe whatever they want, but many RadFems, such as those on GenderTrender, ignore the boundaries of basic civility by identifying, tracking, outing and then systematically harassing specific individuals. Such people are not content to voice their opinions; they seem to have a burning compulsion to make trans people’s lives as miserable as possible. People associated with Gender Trender have attempted to get people fired from their jobs and alienated from their social circles. They have engaged in online bullying of specific trans people. As survivor of bullying, this persecution breaks my heart. These attackers have no concern for the physical, emotional, vocational or spiritual well being of their targets. It’s impossible to look into their hearts, but their behavior evokes the kind of unrestrained savagery displayed by the child antagonists of Lord of the Flies. Like their metaphorical counterparts, these attackers represent a vicious society that is controlled by humankind’s lowest instincts and which is devoid of compassion.

Radical Feminism is an anomaly in the feminism movement. There are fringe factions in every group. RadFems strike me as the Randall Terrys of the feminist movement-their hateful rhetoric is an embarrassment to the feminist movement in the same way that Terry’s besmirches pro-lifers. Similarly, the rhetoric of some in the RadFeminism movement reminds me of Peter Singer’s ableist promotion of medical rationing, involuntary euthanasia and infanticide, which he cloaks in the guise of philosophical discourse. For instance, in regard to their statements that they want transgenderism to disappear from existence, some RadFems have reassured detractors that they don’t want to physically injure or murder trans people. Similarly, Peter Singer has said that he doesn’t want to kill disabled people who can conceive of themselves over time and have a preference to go on living. Well, thank goodness for small favors! Surely society should have higher standards than that…

I anticipate that in the future there will be more and more dialogue between trans and disability advocates, as we experience similar forms of social oppression. (Bodily difference, discontinuity between the kind of body our society expects and the kind of body one actually has, interaction with the medical establishment, the current need for accommodation in regards to name changes, living arrangements, etc.) This dialogue will become increasingly valuable as the disabled community wrestles with the phenomenon of transableism, and how best to evidence respect for able-bodied persons who identify as disabled. Finally, I hope that those of us who identify as progressive, consistent pro-lifers can be party to creating a society in which every person is loved, valued, and treated with dignity.

Recently, Jezebel published an article titled, “Church Saves Fetus with Downs, Everyone Lives Happily Ever After.” I find this article’s perspective to be perverse. I feel that its cynical tone represents yet *another* example of the mainstream pro choice movement shamelessly *using* the disabled to promote its agenda. (The mainstream pro-life movement does this as well, though in different ways.) Presumably, the woman/parents in question went to her/their priest for help. The mother and her partner decided to follow the priest’s advice and give their child up for adoption. According to Jezebel,the priest’s advice/actions amounted to this:

Here’s a heartwarming story about a Reverend who learned of a young couple planning to abort because their child, if carried to term, would have Down syndrome. “But abortion is sin!” the pastor said (we’re paraphrasing). “Let me pressure you into carrying to term by hastily crowdsourcing an adoptive family!”

Here’s the thing: If you go talk to your spiritual leader about terminating a pregnancy, there’s a good chance that he or she opposes abortion and will try to dissuade you from having one. (Not that all religious leaders feel that way, but many do.) The woman in the case was legally free to choose an abortion, and she decided not to do that. She was free to refuse the priest’s offer, and she accepted it. The fact that the parents involved were free to reject his suggestion isn’t enough for Katie Baker. Perhaps the most sanctimonious part of the post read:

So many mistreated babies and kids with Downs live terrible lives. Instead of throwing resources at a nonviable fetus, why can’t the church help children with Down syndrome that are already alive? Because anti-abortion folks care more about fetuses with fairytale narratives than actual babies.

I deeply resent Baker’s use of the story to imply that opposing the abortion of disabled fetuses indicates a lack of concern for other disabled children, and her assertion that finding a home for a disabled fetus amounts to nothing more than a “feel good” story.” This is demeaning to anyone who is living with a disability and to everyone who has chosen to bear such a child. Incidentally, how many children with Down Syndrome have you adopted, Katie Baker?

Many of the comments on this article are disturbing, as well. For instance, one person wrote:

As good Christers, we realized that we couldn’t abort this fucked-up child we no longer want. Which, obviously, means that Jesus wants us to mail it to someone and then try again for one that will look good on our Christmas cards. Have a blessed day!” 7/10/13 4:39pm

This comment makes me want to use profanity. People with disabilities are not “fucked up.” As a representative of our ableist culture, however, the commenter certainly is. Given a choice between being him/her and being a person with Down Syndrome, I’d choose the latter any day.

Another comment was more restrained, but no less ableist:

Great, I’m happy this couple found a way to deal with their singular situation, but that does not mean this sort of thing is a viable way to solve the problem of unwanted and/or non-viable fetuses. What happened to all the “discarded” families that were not chosen? Did they run out and adopt a different DS baby? 7/10/13 4:21pm

I can’t help but suspect that the distinction this commenter draws between “unwanted” and “non-viable” indicates a conflation of disability and death. Ie, a 23-week old fetus without a disability is “unwanted.” A 23-week-old fetus with a disability is “non-viable.” Both can be aborted, but the latter fetus “wasn’t viable” anyway. (Despite the fact that there are plenty of former “non-viable fetuses” with Down Syndrome walking around.) This kind of conflation may make some people feel better about aborting, but it is not based on science.

After I posted my perspective on Jezebel’s Facebook page, I noticed the following statement placed above the article:


[Note: According to the Washington Times, the Rev. reached out to a couple he heard was planning to abort; they hadn’t considered adoption before and his offer was unsolicited. So the Facebook message isn’t exactly truthful.]

There is nothing in the Washington Times article contradicting the implication that the parents went to the priest for advice and/or solace. Many parents dealing with a prenatal diagnosis do so, whether they choose to terminate or carry to term. Maybe “reached out” means ‘the priest heard about the couple’s plans from his secretary and contacted the couple,” OR, more likely, it means, ‘The devastated mother/parents went to their priest in their hour of need, and told him that they were considering abortion. The priest *reached out* to them and offered to find an adoptive home.’ I suppose that the “truth” behind that part of that situation depends on how one interprets the phrase “reached out.” IRREGARDLESS, Ableism is Ableism. No disability advocate I know, most of whom are pro choice, would ever be “ok” with the tone of this article, because most people in our movement see the decision to birth or adopt a disabled child as something more than a “Christian reality TV series.” Furthermore, the author’s protestations of concern for disabled children are hollow unless she herself is doing more than what the church, or the most active parts of the disability rights movement, do for people with disabilities. Has she participated in ADAPT protests in support of the Community Choice Act? Is she overseeing the educational needs of disabled children in foster care? Has she adopted any children with special needs? Does she give a crap about any of those things beyond using them as an ideological cudgel? Again, I repeat my question: How many mistreated children with Down Syndome, for whom you profess to be concerned, have you adopted, Katie Baker??

If you were anywhere near social media last week, you probably saw lots of people change their profile picture to this:

Red square with light red/pink "equals" sign logo

to show support for allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.

In response, the Manhattan Declaration’s Facebook page posted this graphic with the note, “So, you want to talk about equality…”

Graphic featuring an "equals" sign superimposed over a human fetus in utero.

Now, some people shared the fetus graphic to express their support for both marriage equality and fetal humanity. That’s great! But anyone using it or thinking of using it should be aware of who the Manhattan Declaration is, and why they were circulating this graphic.

The Manhattan Declaration opposes civil marriage for same-sex couples. When they wrote, “So, you want to talk about equality…” they weren’t saying “let’s be even more inclusive!” They were saying “stop being for that form of equality and be for this form of equality instead.”

Unfortunately, that’s how a lot of people used it. I heard from people who are themselves in same-sex relationships, or changed their profile pictures to support friends and family who are. These are people who have been harmed or seen loved ones harmed by the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage. And for their expression of that pain and support, for their celebration of love, they got a fetus graphic flung at them by their opponents. One guess as to whether it made them more or less inclined to feel a sense of kinship with the child in the graphic.

As a practical matter, tying abortion opposition to same-sex marriage opposition alienates an increasingly large segment of the population, especially younger people. It’s a loser. And as an ethical matter, responding to heartfelt stories of loving relationships and discriminatory policies with “Never mind you, what about my cause?” That’s just mean.

At the conference held for the 25th anniversary of Consistent Life (of which All Our Lives is a member group), Mary spoke with Elizabeth Palmberg about her views on how abortion relates to issues of reproductive justice faced by women, as well as to other forms of lifetaking. This interview is reprinted, with permission, from the Fall 2012 newsletter of Consistent Life.

When I was small, I had a strong intuition that all lives are sacred. And I heard about women’s liberation; I heard the feminists burned bras, and this and that and the other thing, but there was something about it that, inside, made me cheer. I was always kind of a free spirit. What I learned in college, at Bryn Mawr, was that if you’re for women’s rights, you have to be pro-choice— something about that just didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t know many people who felt the same way who would talk about it. I came from a very conservative background, and I came out of college feeling that some of my earlier moral and political intuitions were validated by feminism and progressive politics. But this issue of abortion—I just could not get away from the feeling that this is violence and it arises from injustice against women.

I wanted to do something about violence, but I felt very discontent with the pro-life movement as such. I became a social worker and worked in pregnancy care services. When I became too disabled to work a “normal” job, I went to being a writer and editor; one of my specializations is recovering lost history.

I’ve written on black history, Polish-American history. And I’ve done work on early feminists—even though the situation is different today, obviously, they have a very keen analysis, that still holds, why women have unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Two years ago Jennifer Roth and I co-founded a group called All Our Lives; we very consciously take a reproductive justice approach. Reproductive justice is a movement that arose from women of color, people with disabilities, people with a working-class perspective. Reproductive justice involves having not only the right to have a child but the social power to exercise that right, to raise the children we have in safety, and it also includes the right not to have a child.

Many people who identify with reproductive justice take a pro-choice stand on abortion, but there are many of us who don’t. Loretta Ross, the head of SisterSong, a very influential reproductive justice organization, talks about “perfect choice.” If everyone had the means to do what they wanted to do reproductively and sexually, that would be the state of perfect choice. Some people believe that in that state there would still be abortions, and others of us think that it would be rare to nonexistent.

So that’s why we started All Our Lives, and we’ve had very interesting dialogues, mostly behind the scenes, with both pro-life and pro-choice people. One thing that we’re finding is a niche that nobody’s taken up is that a lot of scientific research now suggests that methods that were considered abortifacient really aren’t—there is so much resistance to hearing that perspective. We also have on our website a PowerPoint presentation called “Family Planning Freedom is Prolife.” It gives 10 reasons, many backed up with scientific studies. It addresses a lot of myths that both pro-life and pro-choice people have.

“As many as God sends us” is a family planning choice, and natural family planning is one, but the important thing is I don’t think “choice” is an empty word. Some people think it’s a cover for all abortion all the time, but I think it’s very real. You can’t just talk about choice in a vacuum; you have to talk about how it’s compromised by issues of race, gender, disability, class, sexual orientation. Environmental justice is one; a lot of women are losing their ability to conceive when they want to because of environmental toxins.

Believing that all life is sacred, that means women’s lives too, and that means we do have a right over our own bodies. Pro-lifers often interpret that as a selfish demand, but I [don’t.] I remember Muhammad Ali, when I was a little kid, boasting about how great he was; a lot of white people were saying, “God, this man has an ego!” But after living in a black community for a long time and having an interracial family, I realized that that’s not egotism—that’s saying, “I’m somebody, I have value.” That’s what women are saying when they say, “We have a right over our own bodies.”

Now with pregnancy, it’s a matter of two bodies, two lives. Our responsibility has two sides: one is responsibility for pregnant women and their children, and the other side is the responsibility to respect women’s right to prevent conception when they want to. That is a difficult thing to write in the pro-life movement. Some Catholics have objections; the other thing is the belief in something called the “contraceptive mentality,” that if your contraception fails, that you automatically have an abortion—that doesn’t explain millions of pregnancy outcomes. It certainly doesn’t explain why I had my daughter and why she had her son. I know lots of women who use contraception in the knowledge that it doesn’t always work as intended. But if it doesn’t work as intended, then you and your child have a right to everything that will help you both survive.

A lot of [the bridge-building we at All Our Lives have] done so far is behind the scenes. We find, in surprising places, opportunities to join with people who have a common concern. We have found pro-choice people who say, “I don’t agree with you on abortion, but I have respect for your perspective because it’s consistent, because you value women’s lives.” We found pro-lifers who say, “That’s exactly how I feel.” We share a lot of supporters with the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. One very interesting thing is that women of color, even those who identify as pro-choice, really can relate to this perspective. There’s probably a lot of opportunity for common ground there.

We have a small board; most of us have disabilities. We’re all female; one of our board members is a woman and an independent ordained Catholic priest. We’re not anti-religious; we’re open to people of all faiths. I’m someone with Catholic and Protestant ancestry, and I also practice Buddhism, and Jen Roth is an atheist. We really try to bring in multiple perspectives, which can be difficult sometimes, but so far it’s worked out really well.

I was involved in Feminists for Life, I think, from 1986 until I resigned in 2007. I don’t quarrel with what they do—what they do is good—but I left specifically in protest of their inaction on pre-conception issues. [They] said [they] couldn’t come to a consensus because people disagree. I feel like we’ve worked out another approach. I kind of understand; Catholics in the United States, including my white ethnic ancestors, Polish and Irish, were targeted for eugenics, and that collective memory is still there. That legacy is one reason it’s hard to talk about birth control in the pro-life movement. But I think it needs to come more out in the open, it needs to heal.

As a multiply disabled person who depends on expensive medical care, I am really concerned about the threat euthanasia poses, especially to people on public assistance. I think disability rights folks—who are often not included in the debates, but we have had some impact—have gotten people to think about the fact [euthanasia often] isn’t a free choice; it can easily slide into coercion. As for the death penalty, I really think that’s tied into racism, it’s tied into poverty. I know a family with a member who was eventually exonerated, but he was on death row for something like 14 years. He was a young man, and he lost those years of his life. So that issue has a very human face to me. All these issues do.

War is very tied in. I know people who have gone into the military for very noble reasons: they want to serve their country, they know that some things are worth dying for. It’s unfortunate that they’re dying for such horrible reasons.

I see a parallel between that and a lot of women I know who’ve had abortions. They are not evil people; they are people trying, like all of us, to make the best of very bad situations. I know women who’ve had abortions who go to either the pro-life or the pro-choice movements, and I see good people in both groups. A lot of women feel they have to have an abortion because it preserves a relationship with a man, or with their parents. They are concerned about the situation they bring the child into. I just think it’s unfair that women are placed in that position to begin with, that the whole karmic burden is thrown on that woman and that child. We always talk about most of these issues in terms of individual rights, but what about collective responsibility? I think that’s where Americans really, really have gone wrong.

Savita Halappavanar’s death is outrageous, terrifying, sickening … who has enough adjectives for letting a woman die because “this is a Catholic country”?

Assuming that the Irish Times’ account of the horrific last few days of her life is accurate, Halappanavar’s doctors didn’t so much as start her on antibiotics until the third day of her miscarriage, when she was already very ill. They refused to induce delivery of her dying unborn child even as she became sicker and sicker from the infection that ultimately killed her. They claimed that Irish law would not allow them to do anything while there was still a fetal heartbeat — but that doesn’t seem to be the real reason for their refusal to save her life.

I’m neither a lawyer nor Irish, so I’m going to try not to comment in detail on specific points of Irish law when I’m not qualified to do so. That said, here’s what I do know:

  • The Irish Supreme Court ruled in the 1992 “X Case” that in cases where there is a “real and substantial” risk to the life of the mother that can only be avoided by the termination of her pregnancy, that termination is legally permissible.
  • The Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics For Registered Medical Practitioners of Ireland’s Medical Council states:

Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother. Under current legal precedent, this exception includes where there is a clear and substantial risk to the life of the mother arising from a threat of suicide. You should undertake a full assessment of any such risk in light of the clinical research on this issue.

It is lawful to provide information in Ireland about abortions abroad, subject to strict conditions.

You have a duty to provide care, support and follow-up services for women who have an abortion abroad.

In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.

Both of these point to a legal and medical consensus that Halappanavar should have been treated. Furthermore, there is no ethically defensible argument that she should have been left to die. Her child’s life could not be saved. It’s very possible that hers could have been. Letting her die gave no possible benefit to her child, flagrantly disregarded her own right to life, and has devastated her family.

Evelyn Fennely, an Irish supporter of All Our Lives, has also written a post on the Halappanavar case. She argues that under Irish law, medical standards, and even Catholic doctrine, inducing delivery or otherwise removing the dying child from her body to avoid further infection would not only be permissible, but would in fact be the standard and expected course of action.

The treatment that Savita Halappanavar required was legal and permitted under the Medical Council guidelines. Why did the medical team not induce as they could have? Was the doctor able to make a correct diagnosis? Was the doctor capable of performing treatments in such scenarios?

These questions should be answered as part of the three investigations that have been launched into the matter. Hopefully these investigations will explain why medical staff at UCHG did not provide treatment for miscarriage, when such medical treatment is legal and standard practice in cases such as Mrs. Halappanavar’s.

If the allegations that the medical team withheld treatment are true, I believe that we can expect the Medical Council to strike off the doctor(s) at the centre of the case. And doctors who withhold treatments and ignore the Council’s guidelines on best medical practice in such cases should be struck off the medical register.

The Medical Council is clear that in cases where the fetus is still alive, treatment is allowed even if “there is little of no hope of the baby surviving”. That she wasn’t treated is a failure of the hospital and medical team, not a problem with the law or with Medical Council guidelines. Necessary medical treatment during pregnancy, even if fetal death is inevitable, is legal in Ireland (and should remain so). In fact, it is standard medical procedure in cases like Savita Halappanavar’s to expediate delivery. She should not have been made to hang on for as long as she did – if the details that are being reported are correct, her case was grossly mismanaged.

Savita Halappanavar’s life was precious. It’s not “pro-life” to throw it away through medical negligence or incompetence, or out of some misguided and misogynistic notion that pregnant women have no right to save their own lives. And if in fact it is true, as some are arguing, that the hospital believed they might be legally liable for treating Halappanavar, that only underscores the need for legislation to clarify the fact that women have the right to life-saving medical care. (Although I have a hard time believing anyone thought they would go to jail for giving her antibiotics. Something else seems to have been happening here.)

Please email Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), at taoiseach@taoiseach.gov.ie to say that you support an inquiry into why University Hospital Galway denied Savita Halappanavar treatment that she had every legal and moral right to.