By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
On the 21st of October 2012, a pregnant Savita Halappanavar, having suffered from severe back pain, went to a hospital in Galway with her husband Praveen – she was admitted to hospital where she was put under observation. A week later, after refusals from doctors to terminate the pregnancy due to Ireland “being a Catholic country”, Savita developed Sepsis, multiple organs shut down and she died.
Savita’s death was an avoidable one, igniting the flames of protest for many women and allies who came together to form multiple protest factions. Speaking to Jen, president of the Maynooth University Pro Choice society, the group gave us an insight into why the issue has become such a hot topic:
The Church is very powerful in Ireland, privately owning and running our hospitals, running our public schools. The Church is the common enemy of all oppressed groups in Ireland, being the only force against the Marriage Equality referendum in 2015, and the Divorce Referendum in 1995. The Church sees abortion as ‘murder’, and shames anybody for being pro-choice, condemning those who have had terminations.
Like any protest group fighting a powerful establishment, the Pro choice has faced adversity, fear mongering and threats. The Christian Union reported the group to the SU for being ‘offensive’ and ‘disrespectful to other students’ (with anti-choice views), for having a vigil for Savita Halappanvar’s anniversary on campus: the event was totally apolitical, the word ‘repeal’ or ‘pro-choice’ not appearing anywhere.
In addition to this, the opposing Pro-Life side have reacted with posters which Pro-Choice claim are total slander:
One poster said that if a mother’s life is in danger, the doctor will terminate the pregnancy. In order to have a poster put up on campus, it must be stamped by the SU, and have the society’s name on it. These posters didn’t have a society name, and the ‘stamp’ was a scanned image.
Despite the uphill battle the group has faced, the Pro-Choice society have came leaps and bounds in helping their side. Stemming from the feminist society of Maynooth University, a group they have said they owe a lot to, Pro Choice have consistently engaged in marches. Described as being showcases of solidarity and empowerment, there is often some anti-choice noise, but they are always outnumbered by many who can safely express their anger and frustration and pain.
While this remains an issue based in Ireland, Jen stated that there’s a lot that those in the UK can do to help their cause. “If everyone abroad can raise awareness about the issue, share articles, talk to friends and family about it, that would be huge. Show your solidarity. And call on our government to say that you’re not okay with what the 8th Amendment is doing to our people”.
It can often feel like protestors are shouting into the void but in Ireland, this isn’t the case: following these marches, the country is set to vote on whether or not the 8th amendment should be repealed which equates the life of an unborn child to that of a mother. With Maynooth Pro Choice now being recognised as an official society by the university, meaning they can arrange more demonstrations, the momentum for repeal isn’t set to slow down anytime soon.