Savita Hallappanavar is a name everyone should know. A few weeks before the election, a representative from my neighboring district here in Illinois proclaimed that he did not believe that abortions were ever necessary to the life of the mother.
In 2009, abortion doctor George Tiller was shot in the lobby of his church for performing just those kinds of abortions.
And a few days ago, in a hospital in Galway, Ireland, Savita Hallappanavar died, in immense pain, after suffering for days from a preventable infection, an infection that resulted from a miscarried 17 week old pregnancy.
Savita Hallappanavar was 31 years old.
She was a married woman. She worked as a dentist. She and her husband wanted this baby and were looking forward to having a child. But when they came to the hospital because she was experiencing severe back pain, the doctors told her she was miscarrying and would likely lose the pregnancy. Her cervix was dilating and she was losing fluid. Their baby would die. She began to show signs of infection – feverish, she collapsed in the bathroom of her hospital room.
She asked the doctors to terminate. Her husband asked the doctors to terminate. They both wanted to end this doomed pregnancy in the effort to save her life.
The doctors said no.
Whether this was because of Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws or because of malpractice on the part of a zealous doctor, what we do know is that they were told “This is a Catholic country.”
Translation: “we do not perform abortions.”
Pro-lifers now have Savita Hallappanavar to answer for. And not just her. 47,000 women around the world die each year because of illegal, unsafe abortions. Before Roe v. Wade, entire wings of hospitals were dedicated to women recovering from illnesses resulting from illegal abortions. Women who received these abortions worried about whether they would survive, but knew that a pregnancy may also kill them.
When Roe v. Wade passed, those hospital wings were empty.
I have a good friend who was able to obtain a lifesaving D&E operation a few years ago. Today, she has a lovely daughter, a loving husband, and most importantly, a life. Savita Hallappanavar will never have the opportunity that my friend had, because a doctor’s opinion and a country’s laws trumped her right to be alive.
Savita Hallappanavar’s death is not just another unfortunate circumstance, another unfortunate statistic to be explained away. It has everything to do with life – her life. Her husband’s life. Her right to live was trumped by someone else’s values, someone who had no business making those decisions for her.
There are unnamed thousands across the globe upon whose lives other people’s values are etched, chiseled into the stones of their graves. They are mothers. Sisters. Grandmothers. Family and friends. Graves filled because another person’s values, another person’s god, trumped their life, their medical care, their rights.
Don't make me gag.
*Note: Abortion and reproductive health services apply to all people with uteruses, not all of whom identify as women.