Tragic death accentuates second-class status of women

The second-class status of women in Irish society was thrown into sharp and ugly focus once more by the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Her voice was ignored when she pleaded for an abortion she hoped would save her life. And only one woman’s voice was heard in the Dáil when the scandal broke across leader’s questions yesterday — and that was a heckle.

“Legislating for the X case might help — it’s ridiculous,” shouted Independent TD Joan Collins exasperated as Enda Kenny again failed to show any leadership during leader’s questions.

Mr Kenny did empathy well, and he did sympathy well, but he did not do leadership — and it is only leadership that could have possibly saved Ms Halappanavar’s life, and others like hers.

Mr Kenny showed an extraordinary level of disassociation and delusion when he insisted Ms Halappanavar’s death, which, according to her husband occurred after doctors told her it would be against the law to perform a termination even though she was already miscarrying, was “quite separate” from this being the seventh government in a row that has failed to legislate for the X case judgment.

The Taoiseach insisted it was just a “tragic coincidence” that the report from an expert group set up to paper over the Coalition’s deep pro-life/pro-choice fault line had finally been handed to the Health Minister James Reilly as news of Ms Halappanavar’s horrible death emerged.

“This is, if you like, a tragic coincidence in the sense that the ABC report from the expert group has now just been received by the minister, so people inevitably, will, you know, put these two issues together whereas they are quite separate.”

It is doubtful Ms Halappanavar’s grieving family see the two issues as “quite separate”.

It was not a tragic coincidence, it was one of those lightning strike moments which suddenly illuminates the hypocrisy and cruelty of Irish society, like the Granard and Kerry Babies cases.

The Dáil devoted just 15 minutes to Ms Halappanavar’s life and shocking death in a special debate — and, apart from Dr Reilly, who had to participate, not one Labour or Fine Gael TD bothered to speak in it.

It was left to the Independent TDs to express national disgust and dismay at what happened to Ms Halappanavar — the Labour TDs who were elected on a pro-choice platform and who voted down an Independent-sponsored attempt to finally legislate for the X case last April, did nothing and said nothing.

Earlier, Mr Kenny, who appointed just two women to his 15-member Cabinet and then gave them the roles of nanny (children’s minister) and housekeeper (social welfare), prevaricated at leader’s questions, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin wanted yet another inquiry, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams called for long overdue law reform, and Shane Ross, representing the technical group, only mentioned Ms Halappanavar’s death in passing, before talking about judges’ shareholdings.

Ms Collins was the lone female voice to be heard in the Dáil boys’ club.

Is the fact that so few women sit in the Dáil and Cabinet directly linked to the fact Irishwomen still cannot have even the most basic rights over their own bodies as laid out in the X case ruling 20 years ago?

Or is that just another “tragic coincidence” you clearly do not want to do anything about, Mr Kenny?

* Read more:

Kenny rejects link to abortion law stance

Reilly: We need clarity but may not require legislation

‘The consultant said it was the law’

‘Don’t use tragedy as reason to legislate’

Legislative minefield, but medical rulings clear

Abortion in Ireland: A legal quagmire

Health official ‘fears there could be other cases’

Tragic death accentuates second-class status of women

Vigils demand abortion law

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