Friday, November 16, 2012

Pro-life or pro-choice?

Savita Halanappavar’s words before dying were "I am neither catholic nor Irish". With these words, her heartbeat stopped. 

And why did it happen?  Her seventeen week foetus had suffered a miscarriage, but then none of the doctors who examined her were willing to terminate the pregnancy, because she was in a catholic country and as per the catholic church's rules on abortion, a foetus cannot be terminated until the heart beat doesn't stop. Savita was neither catholic nor Irish and nor could the foetus be saved. Then why did the doctors show poor judgement and behave like coy cats fearful of the abortion laws of the Catholic church? 

For in 1992, the Supreme Court of Ireland had ruled in the favour of terminating a pregnancy if it was a threat to the mother's life. The ruling was not implemented by the subsequent governments in the Irish republic due to which the hands of the medical personnel were tied. And none supposedly wanted to go against the law and end the pregnancy to lose their jobs. She writhed in pain for four days, but by the time the foetal heart beat stopped and its remains were surgically removed septicemia had poisoned her blood and rendered her organs useless.

She breathed her last on October 28th, triggering a debate between pro-life and pro-choice.

While in another world, Todd Akin and the Republicans left no stone unturned to define the different kinds of rape and get slapped by a loss that most women had foreseen in the United States. While the first lady,  assured the women during the Democratic National convention that her husband trusted women and the choices they had to make for their bodies.

These are two instances from the recent past, that made the lives of women a matter of political proposition. The state in both these cases was toying around with the reproductive rights of women.

Pregnancy affects the life of the mother and not the father, in-laws or the state. Then why does the state try to have say in the personal decisions of a couple or the mother? Personal pleasures can never be deemed as a political manifesto and the state must make all efforts to make its stand clear on laws affecting human lives. In the case of Savita, the doctors were forgetting the Hippocratic oath to hide behind religious laws that were never reviewed by the state in an act of inhuman carelessness.

The debate on pro-life and pro-choice is separated by a thin line. While the church is trying to kill many birds with one stone, taking a stand on contraception, abortion, career oriented women, divorce and same sex marriages, it also not giving the devil its due. The priests embroiled in child abuse cases are still walking free, so also the nuns in many parts of the world coming out strongly against it. A wave of feminism has taken over the nuns with many openly coming in support of the misuse of the "pro life" theory that the church is thrusting on its women and also trying to pin the dirty linen of the priests for public display.

In this tug of war many women like Savita are becoming scapegoats of a law that was passed to keep a check on sexual promiscuity that the modern woman is following as a thumb rule to be free of obligations and family. While in the west and in modern India, many women are retorting to abortion to kill an unborn foetus that was an outcome of their misadventures, and more of the women who do not want to have a family are getting their fetuses terminated.  There is another universe, where a Savita becomes a victim of the cruelty of fate, only because pro-life and pro-choice are misunderstood matters largely governed by governments waiting to amass votes. Why should uterus be a point of political debate when pregnancy is the decision of the mother and not the state?

In this case, the child was dead whether or not the abortion had taken place, and if not for the mindless law makers, reviewing their policies on the health of women in their states the mother's life could have been saved had the abortion been done sooner than it was. The ban on abortion, therefore took a life, had the doctors not been victims of misjudgment. Two lives were lost when one was surely for keeps. How does that make the ban pro-life? 

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