Pursuing BFM from Jai Hind College, Mumbai, Esha loves reading. Khaled Hosseini is her favourite writer. A cinephile and a Marvel fanatic, Esha finds peace in playing the flute and listening to music. In Esha’s words, ‘books are her solace and music is her escape’.
Abortion Laws- My Body, My Choice
– Esha Saini
This is the story of Savita Halappanavar, the lady who was murdered by Ireland. What do I mean by ‘murdered by Ireland’? Well, you decide for yourself. Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist, had been residing in Ireland along with her husband Praveen Halappanavar.
In August 2012, Savita found out she was pregnant and according to Praveen, she was on the top of the world. Savita and Praveen had been making all the arrangements to welcome their unborn child. But not all was well as it seemed to be. On 21 October 2012, when Savita was 17 weeks pregnant, she got to know that she had been miscarrying the child. And on October 22, her water broke but the foetus was not expelled. Savita had been told that she was suffering from a septic miscarriage and that her child would not survive. On 23 October, Savita and Praveen had asked the doctor about using medication to induce the inevitable miscarriage. The doctor replied, “Under Irish Law if there is no evidence of risk to the life of the mother, our hands are tied so long as there is a fetal heartbeat detected.” Savita’s health had been deteriorating day by day but the doctors could not go against the law. On Sunday, 28 October, at 12:45 a.m. she suffered from a cardiac arrest and at 1:09 a.m. was declared dead.
So, tell me, who was her murderer?
Savita Halappanavar’s death had sparked protests all over the country and had attracted world wide attention. There were protests outside the Irish Embassies in London, Brussels and Berlin. These widespread protests eventually led to the passing of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. The judgement allowed for abortion where the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life, including through a risk of suicide. The 2013 Act was then repealed by the Health ( Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, which commenced on 1 January 2019. The Health Act 2018 permits termination under medical supervision, generally up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and later if the pregnancy poses a serious health risk or there is a fatal foetal abnormality. Justice to Savita had been delivered finally after a long battle.
But this is just the beginning. Out there in the world, there are still many Savitas who are dying every day. According to the World Health Organisation, 23,000 women die of unsafe abortions each year and tens of thousands more experience significant health complications. 41% of women reside in those countries where there is restricted access to abortion. There are certain countries which have a total ban on abortions such as Madagascar, Haiti and Mauritania. Some other countries include El Salvador where abortion is banned in all cases, even if there is a threat to the life of the mother. In March, El Salvador freed three women who were imprisoned for 30 years after being accused of aborting their babies, despite they instead suffered from miscarriages. In Malta, abortion remains illegal under all circumstances and if you violate the rules, you will have to face imprisonment between 18 months to 4 years. In most of the Eastern European countries like Turkey, Denmark, Cuba and Italy, women may not have an abortion without the permission of the family members. How much longer will we have to survive under such conditions, where our choices are not determined by us, but rather by the government and the society?
Let us now talk about the most developed nation in the world: The United States of America. The United States of America, when I talk about this country, the first thing that comes to my mind is Freedom. There is freedom of speech, freedom of expression. Moreover, the freedom to be yourself and do whatever you want to. But recently something happened which changed the modern outlook of this country. Something that enraged women not only in America but all over the world. Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana and many other states have imposed restrictive bans on abortions with Alabama’s governor signing into the most restrictive abortion legislation in the United States. The bill outlaws all forms of abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or if the child has a lethal anomaly. The bill does not exempt incest or rape victims and the doctors who perform an abortion could face up to 99 years in prison. Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri and some other states have passed the heartbeat bill that bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected which can be as early as six weeks after conception– before many women know they are pregnant. Violating this bill could land you into jail for up to 15 years and in some states, even for life. Once upon a time, this country had been the prime example of growth and empowerment of women and then, Trump happened. However, after worldwide protests against the abortion ban, a federal judge blocked it from taking effect in November in Alabama, ensuring the procedure remains legal and available in the state while the case winds its way through the courts.
Have you ever heard a rapist getting imprisonment of up to 99 years in prison? Though we might be residing in a world today where women are not inferior in any way, we are still oppressed. We are made to realise that it is our fault. In the case of abortion, it is we who are the killers. No one wants to know about the background story. It is okay if we lose our lives. When a woman and not a rapist is sentenced to 99 years of imprisonment, it is important to know that the war is waged on women.
The opinions expressed are of the writer.