AIMS calls for the repeal of the 8th amendment, in the wake of migrant x (20th August 2014)

Everyone in Ireland with a womb is impacted by the 8th amendment

Everyone in Ireland with a womb. That’s who’s negatively impacted by the existence of the 8th amendment. This is so much broader and larger than the incredibly narrow scope of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act; which as we’ve seen in the truly horrendous case of this young woman, won’t even be applied when it’s really, desperately needed, in the worst instance imaginable. Instead what it’ll be used for is to draw out this young woman’s horrible ordeal; that she’ll be promised that there is hope for her; that she will be treated with humanity and dignity; that her wishes and needs will be respected. In short she will be lied to, further exploited, and her body violated all over again.

Two psychiatrists agreed that Migrant X was suicidal and should have access to the abortion she had been requesting since she first found out she was pregnant at 8 weeks’ gestation. However, a single obstetrician overruled this, despite agreeing the woman was suicidal. Instead she was denied access to the abortion she was legally entitled to, detained until after her pregnancy was deemed viable, force-fed, and finally coerced into a Caesarean section. Where is any care for her life and health and well-being in all of this horror? Why was her voice so ignored? Is she receiving appropriate after-care, which she must now be dreadfully in need of?

The 8th Amendment is a piece of legislation which directly affects every pregnant woman, over-lapping on choices for contraception, abortion, and in continued pregnancy, labour, and birth.

With the 8th Amendment in place, pregnant women do not have the same rights as non-pregnant women. Pregnancy immediately reduces a woman’s right to make informed decisions on her care and decisions which will affect her in pregnancy, labour, and birth.

Nobody who wasn’t pregnant on hunger strike would be force fed. Nobody who wasn’t pregnant would have a court order sought against them to forcibly carry out major abdominal surgery on them.

AIMS Ireland hear on a weekly, if not daily basis of pregnant women being coerced into interventions and surgeries they do not want and there is no medical justification for. We saw this in Waterford with Mother A in 2013, where a court order was sought against another migrant woman to coerce her into a caesarean section, we saw it with Bimbo Onanuga in 2010 who, when her baby died in her womb, was administered a drug, cytotec, which caused a severe uterine rupture. When she sought help in the Rotunda, where she was, for the intense pain she was suffering, she was told she was ‘exaggerating’ and sent home; less than a day later she died of the uterine rupture. We saw it again this weekend with the case of Migrant X who was coerced into continued pregnancy she did not consent to and then further coerced into major surgery she did not want.

It’s also concerning though far from surprising that Migrant X was not Irish. Migrant women, traveller women and women of colour are disproportionately represented in the tragedies and negative outcomes of pregnancy here. Maternal deaths have been shown statistically to affect non-national emigrant women almost twice as frequently as women born in either the UK or Ireland. We saw this with Dhara Kivlehan, with Bimbo Onanuga, with Savita Halappanavar, with Mother A, and now another atrocity has been perpetrated upon another vulnerable migrant woman.

The repeated violations of this woman’s body mirror the repeated and daily violations of pregnant woman’s bodies in Irish maternity hospitals. It came as no surprise to anyone involved in maternity rights campaigning that it was the obstetrician, on the panel of three doctors, who refused this woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Women’s voices and women’s rights do not exist in Irish maternity wards.

This is enshrined in the HSE’s national consent policy which specifically excludes pregnant women from being able to refuse procedures being carried out on their own bodies, because of the existence of the 8th amendment. Instead it cites the High Courts as the appropriate decision makers for these instances. AIMS regularly hear from pregnant women who have been threatened with child protection orders in order to coerce them into interventions they do not want.

How many violations of women’s rights and bodies in Irish maternity hospitals will it take before a stop is put to these outrages? Again, coerced c-sections are not a rarity in Irish maternity hospitals, and the concept of pregnant women needing to consent to what happens to their bodies is regarded as irrelevant by both the HSE and the courts. We saw this in the High Court in Kerry two weeks ago in the ruling in Ciara Hamilton’s case, where the judge decided that despite her testimony that she did not consent to an invasive medical procedure which led to her requiring an emergency c-section and permanent damage to her son, she in fact had consented as he did not believe any woman would go against the ‘advice’ of medical professionals.

AIMSI fully supports the reproductive rights and choices of ALL women and we will continue to strongly advocate and campaign for these rights.

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