The vote in Ireland repealing the abortion ban is a landmark measure ending centuries of oppression by the Catholic Church. In a nation where a gay person was elected Prime Minister, in PIO Leo Varadkar, and same-sex marriage legalised, the medieval ban on abortions under any circumstances was an affront to modernity and an individual’s freedom of choice. It’s tragic that the death of young Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar from sepsis after being denied abortion during a miscarriage was the trigger for outrage against a Church-ordained law that seemed totally out of touch with reality. The law said an abortion couldn’t be done on a woman until the foetus’ heart stops. Young Irish women needing an abortion had to travel overseas, mostly to neighbouring UK, or buy pills illegally online to enjoy their freedom of choice.
The new law may be in force only by the yearend, but there’s already a movement in Ireland seeking quicker implementation of the referendum verdict. This is the strongest possible rebuke to years of conservative patriarchy in a Catholic nation. The larger question is whether in today’s world the right of a woman to keep her child or end her pregnancy can be restricted by religious dogma.
It was sporting of Savita’s father in Karnataka to hail the referendum verdict as justice for his daughter in faraway Ireland, who he lost due to a ban on abortions even in cases of extreme medical emergency where the mother’s life was in grave danger. Ireland’s PM acknowledged that his people “trust and respect women to make their own decisions and choices”.