Legislating for the X case is needed. It is more than twenty years overdue. But there is a danger that it will be portrayed as having resolved what the Government may be tempted to see as a short-term crisis.
Let’s focus on what we are actually talking about here.
Legislating to allow a doctor in a hospital to save the life of a woman who is in danger of dying is the absolute, rock-bottom, minimal level of ethical expectations that we should have of even a semi-civilized parliament.
It is astonishing that we even have to discuss this.
It shows how desensitized the public discourse has become to the suffering of women with unwanted pregnancies, that the media debate focuses almost exclusively on those women whose suffering is so grave that their lives are at risk.
And even at that, much of the public discourse is about the impact that the law has on doctors, and how doctors might fear the impact on their career, rather than on the suffering of the women whose lives are at risk.
Some ghouls from the anti-choice campaign seem to delight in the idea that Savita might possibly have died from something unrelated to the doctors refusing to give her the abortion she requested.
But, even before Savita died, it was already disgraceful that she was made to suffer, in pain and agony, for several days, with a dying foetus inside her body, in a hospital in a modern first-world democracy, where she could have legitimately expected that the medical staff would seek to maximise her health and wellbeing.
Instead, because of Ireland’s ongoing obsession with the theological status of ‘the unborn’, which is such an ill-defined concept that it features in our Constitution as an adjective unattached to any noun, Savita’s health was sacrificed for no sensible reason at all.
That Savita lost her life was appalling. But it was already disgraceful how she had been treated by doctors in a modern hospital. Just as it is continually disgraceful that we allow twelve women a day to travel for abortions to England instead of addressing reality here.
When a high profile case emerges, and we see an actual person rather than a theoretical debate, the Irish people show compassion and know the right thing to do. But then we forget about it until another high profile case forces its way into our ethical awareness.
Legislating for X is needed. It is more than twenty years overdue. But it must be the start of a campaign to repeal the 1983 anti-choice amendment to our Constitution.
Like many other people, I believe that a pregnant woman should have the right to decide what happens inside her body.
If ethical dilemmas arise in vindicating that right, we should deal with them on the basis of empathy, compassion, reason, human rights and democracy.
And we can not allow our compassion and reason to remain shackled by having supernaturally-inspired dogma enshrined in our Constitution.