Abortion rights may be suffering at home, but things are looking pretty good stateside when you compare America's abortion restrictions with those in Ireland. Abortions are near impossible to get on the Emerald Isle, and the country has been under fire for its intense restrictions. Recently, a United Nations human rights panel told the nation's government that revisions for its abortion policies are highly necessary. If revised, the UN human rights panel says that the the law should account for more women who are victims of rape, incest, fetal abnormality that could prove deadly, or if the pregnancy poses a life-threatening risk to the mother.
Such protections would have been useful in the past, when Ireland's abortion law was the subject of worldwide attention following the death of non-Catholic Savita Halappanavar. Halappanavar was denied the abortion that would have saved her life after a incomplete miscarriage—because her unviable fetus still had a heartbeat. Her avoidable death brought attention to abortion restrictions that went too far.
To respond to the tragic death of Halappanavar, the Irish government relinquished a bit of control on abortion restrictions by passing The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which was put into place last year to prevent such tragedy from occurring again. The act says that abortion will be permitted when "when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide over a pregnancy." Two psychiatrists and one obstetrician, however, have to confirm this risk in order for a woman to receive abortion care. You'd think that this new law would prevent would help women in dire need, but it seems that it wasn't enough to help all women seeking an abortions.
The most recent jaw-dropping injustice comes from an unnamed woman, now 18 years old. She first attempted to get an abortion just eight weeks into her pregnancy—a pregnancy that was the result of a rape. Despite proving that she was suicidal, she was still denied access to the procedure. Why? Her attempts early on in her pregnancy to prove the necessity of the abortion weren't assessed under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, and it wasn't until much later that she was able to receive the examination needed to be granted an abortion.
Twenty-five weeks later, to be exact. That far into her pregnancy, she was finally granted the abortion she desired—following a hunger strike. But since the pregnancy was so advanced, the termination she had proved necessary could not be granted, and she was forced to undergo a c-section. Keep in mind that this was a full 17 weeks after she first attempted to access abortion services.
The fact that this woman, like Halappanavar, was an immigrant, is telling of the difficulties that certain populations of women face in getting an abortion in Ireland. Usually, it is immigrants and women living in poverty who find themselves more affected by the country's stringent termination regulations. Oftentimes women living in poverty don't have the funds and immigrants don't have the proper travel documents needed to visit another country with lesser abortion restrictions to receive the procedure. Hopefully incidents like these coupled with the United Nations's demands will showcase the need for change, and for the government to realize that women's freedoms are are worth protecting.