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Friday, November 16, 2012

Savita Halappanavar

In a couple of hours I will be leaving for a cruise on the Seine that will take me from Paris to Normandy and back. I am still unpacked. But I wanted to quickly write this entry. 

I am worried about the hundreds of rockets that have been flying between Israel and Gaza, killing fifteen Palestinians and three Israelis by the time of this writing. I am distressed about the violence and its potential ramification on the Egyptian-Israeli and Israeli-Jordanian peace, and on the rest of the volatile Middle East. I am distressed about the range of Hamas’s rockets that have landed in central Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But I question the wisdom of the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, though I agree that Israel had to respond to the continuous shelling of its civilian population by extremist Islamic groups in Gaza and to Hamas’s unwillingness or inability to stop it. 

But the events in the Middle East, though close to my heart, are not what I wanted to write about so hastily. What I want to address as a woman is the death of Savita Halappanavar, the 31-year-old Indian woman whose life was sacrificed in the middle of a miscarriage in the name of the right of the unborn.
It happened in Ireland, a member of the European Union, which together with UN Women is actively involved in protecting and promoting women's rights.

Her doctors’ refusal to perform an abortion because her fetus’s heart was still beating even though it could not survive in its mother’s womb was irrational because it endangered her life unnecessarily. Savita’s grieving mother and husband adequately and painfully expressed the absurdity of that decision, which was based on a 1983 amendment to the Irish constitution, guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn. 

While it is not surprising that the “right to life” groups in Ireland rushed to deny that an abortion might have saved Savita’s life, it is encouraging to see the many demonstrators, man and women alike, who demand the immediate legalization of abortion in Ireland, reopening the abortion debate in that Catholic country. 
Savita’s unnecessary and tragic death should not only do the same in post election America, but it the rest of the world. The United Nations Population Division and UN Women could lead the way.  This women’s rights matter is a human rights issue. 


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