By now, we’ve all heard of the awful death of Savita Halappanavar and the efforts of her husband, Praveen, to get some answers as to what happened. Without knowing the specifics of the case, it’s difficult to judge what may or may not have happened. Hopefully the new HIQA inquiry will cast some light on this sad affair but with the news that the HSE have no record of the termination requests, I’m not especially confident that it will be anything other than the usual Irish whataboutery, obfuscation and eventual whitewash.
What I would like to do is bring some attention to some writing purporting to be from Eamon O’Dwyer, Professor, emeritus, of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of
Ireland, Galway. For those who are not aware, “Professor emeritus” is the title given to retired professors and for the moment, it would probably be safe to assume that the fact of him being a professor at the same hospital Savita died at is nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence. The article appears to date from shortly after the 2002 referendum.
There’s a blog you can view at the FIAMC website (World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations) which purports to be written by Professor O’Dwyer and what he has to say is rather interesting.
It starts off as an overly romantic ode to early and middle-ages Christian Ireland and it’s effect on the practice of medicine but in common with an awful lot of Irish history, once you get to the Penal Laws, the tone starts to change. It becomes less about the intertwining of faith and ordinary life and more about how secular medical ethics are in his opinion fundamentally flawed.
These colleges, now independent Universities, continue to produce graduates of the highest calibre. At the same time, one would have to say — as a former dean of a medical faculty — that ethics does not rate highly in the undergraduate curriculum.
He also brings attention to The Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, which is still in force in this country today and makes it clear that deliberation termination of a pregnancy is a felony.
It’s when he starts talking about the 1974 Supreme Court case effectively legalising contraceptives in Ireland that things start coming off the rails a bit and the article starts to veer into the sneering smugness that fundamentalists do so well.
I stated earlier that Ireland was a Catholic country, with 94 per cent of the population in a recent census describing themselves as Roman Catholic.
Unfortunately, we appear to lack the fortitude which enabled our ancestors steadfastly to remain Catholic in word and deed; many nowadays are what might be called al a carte Catholics.
This is followed by a trite insinuation that the trials of modern life, common to all countries, are because we are not going to mass every Sunday.
While the Country has never been so affluent, with more people gainfully employed than ever before in our history, there has been a significant increase in drug addiction, crimes of violence, suicide, especially among young men, and at the same time a decline in religious observance.
Sure, things were much better when we were dirt poor, had rampant emigration and priests could bugger children in peace & quiet and he follows this up with the fallacy that we’re out to persecute the poor old church as well as a nice black/white tarring of folk on the abortion issue.
The truth is that, the Church is being subjected to a new persecution; devout Catholics tend to be ridiculed by their fellows and the media, while those who espouse the rights of the unborn child are apt to be labelled fundamentalist.
It’s probably a bit trite to have to state that abortion is a thorny issue and that views on it are a very personal matter. Irish people have gone to the polls a number of times on abortion and when you wade past the legalistic mumbo jumbo, the answer that comes back is startlingly clear. Irish people don’t want unlimited abortions but neither do they want an unlimited ban on abortion. This is the ultimate strawman argument from the likes of Ronan Mullen, William Binchy and Eamon O’Dwyer. Irish people were given the chance to ban abortion if suicide of the mother was a risk and they rejected it. They were also given the chance to restrict travel rights for women to prevent any chance of them travelling abroad and they rejected that too.
It’s pretty clear that O’Dwyer thinks that he knows better than the Irish people and that the real tragedy of an appalling case featuring a 14 year old girl raped by a neighbour is that she wasn’t forced to bear the foetus to full term. He then refers to the “disbelief” that Irish people might want to change their own constitution and not only did the Irish people vote to reject the appalling prospect of a 14 year old girl being forced to give birth to the product of a heinous crime, they did it by a 2:1 ratio. On that same day, the electorate voted yes to allow the “right to travel” and “freedom to obtain information on abortion services outside the state”. There can be no argument with the will of the Irish people about this. He then refers to “increasing popular pressure that the decision in the X-case judgment be rolled back”. Does this mean that the 65% of the electorate who voted to uphold the X-case decision suddenly changed their minds? And so a 4th referendum was held, this one attempting to overturn the X-case decision. This proposed 25th amendment was more complex than the previously rejected 12th amendment but again it was rejected by the Irish people, albeit by a smaller margin than the 1992 vote.
That’s the background so now back to O’Dwyer and he’s busy characterising “all abortions, almost” carried out in England and Wales as “social abortions”. He is also bemoaning sex education to young people and seems to have trouble with the notion that understanding something about sex would help prevent unsafe sex. It’s rather cheeky of him complaining about a figure of 30% of teenagers having unprotected sex but sure, isn’t he against them having protected sex too?
We have failed to tackle the problem of crisis pregnancies — six thousand young women travel to the United Kingdom each year for abortion. These are social abortions where, for one reason or another, the pregnancy is unwanted.
What exactly would O’Dwyer propose? A moral police force checking up on people having sex? Well we tried that already but it fell apart, one of the reasons being the moral police force having their own problems with sex that wasn’t just morally dubious but highly illegal and the cultural dark age that enveloped the country.
He also contradicts himself:
However, if the truth be told there are no medical indications for abortion in a properly managed pregnancy.
While, for the present, abortions are not being carried out in Ireland there is, at the same time, one induced abortion for every eight births.
You can’t go from saying that abortions are never medically necessary and that only two have occurred in the state since the X-case and then state that 1 pregnancy in 9 is terminated by induction. But I guess he gives himself just enough wriggle room by saying “properly managed pregnancy.
Anyway, he finishes his article with a lovely line about us needing to be reconverted and brought back into the bosom of the mother church.
As you see, in many ways, Ireland needs help! Perhaps we require another St. Patrick to reconvert us to proper Christian values?
If I was able to ask him, I would have a few questions for Professor O’Dwyer and they would be:
“How is forcing a 14 year old child to gestate for 9 months and then give birth to the product of an awful crime compatible with Christian values?”
“Would Jesus do that to the girl?”
The trouble with having people like this in authority is that they are in a position to influence others towards their own black/white worldview of what constitutes “right”. O’Dwyer is clearly out of step with the thinking of Irish people but insists that only his view can be right and the worst part of it is that other doctors may have been intimidated out of rational thinking by the sheer weight of authority behind authority figures like O’Dwyer.