Thursday, February 18, 2016

The abuse of pregnant women in Ireland with the 8th amendment

If there is a way to nearly guarantee trauma, if there is a recipe that you could follow, it is to entrap someone, either physically or psychologically, render them helpless and put the fear of God into them. The Irish state does this to pregnant women with the 8th amendment. Bullying, threatening, coercing and forcing are regular occurrences in Irish maternity services and the 8th only backs this up and makes it easy to justify.

Article 40.3.3 (the 8th) was amended to the Irish constitution back in 1983. It gives the foetus equal rights to the mother. The 8th was explicitly added to the National “Consent” Guidelines for pregnant women in 2013 by the Irish health services, 30 years after it became law. If I were cynical, I’d say that this move is not for the safety of the baby, and certainly not for the mother’s safety, but to reduce the obstetric bill of the State Claim’s Agency. Section 7.7.1 states that:
7.7.1 Refusal of treatment in pregnancy
The consent of a pregnant woman is required for all health and social care interventions. However, because of the constitutional provisions on the right to life of the “unborn”, there is significant legal uncertainty regarding the extent of a pregnant woman's right to refuse treatment in circumstances in which the refusal would put the life of a viable foetus at serious risk. In such circumstances, legal advice should be sought as to whether an application to the High Court is necessary. 
In reality, the foetus has more rights than its mother, as the death of Savita Halappanavar showed so damningly. It is crucial to repeal the 8th amendment, as currently, women do not have any legal rights over their own bodies while pregnant. Many think that the 8th only affects women who seek an abortion, but it affects every woman who is pregnant. There was a disgraceful and mysogynistic precedent set in the case that Ciara Hamilton took against the Irish health service. The judge stated that:
“it was reasonable for the midwife involved to seek reassurance with an artificial rupture of the membranes. The midwife was the person entitled, authorised and qualified to make the decision, the judge said.” 
So, women are not entitled, authorised or qualified to make decisions regarding and affecting their own bodies? Please tell me what century we're living in? I am ashamed to be living in a country with rulings like this. Was Ciara Hamilton in the financial position to appeal this decision after having the state's costs awarded against her? You can be sure she wasn't and the judge certainly made sure of that in order to teach her, and all women, a lesson: don't dare stand up for yourself or you'll be punished. The clear message is be obedient, don't rock the boat and do as you're told, as any woman should do in a patriarchal world.

Not only are pregnant women not allowed to refuse a treatment, they also don’t have the right to be informed that a procedure on their body will take place, if it is for the safety of the baby. Now, that last sentence by the judge could be used to justify anything really couldn’t it? It can justify the police going to a pregnant woman's home, unbeknownst to her, in order to force her to go to hospital for a forced procedure. Are we seriously living in a world that thinks this is okay?

The desperately sad cases of Miss Y and a woman who was kept on life support against her family's wishes because her 15 week old baby still had a heartbeat, only serve to prove the point that health is not just about being alive, it is also about quality of life. If the 8th amendment didn't exist, these atrocities wouldn't be able to happen because, legally, women could not be forced into any procedure. It is important to note that if the 8th were repealed outright, the law currently regulating abortion, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 – one of the strictest such laws in the world – would remain in force according to Eoin Daly, lecturer in constitutional law at the School of Law, NUI Galway. Therefore the argument that there will be abortion on demand if the 8th is repealed is nonsense.

These cases fly in the face of all research ever conducted on psychological trauma impacting adults, children and prenates. The Irish health services cannot claim to be practising evidence based medicine by ignoring and even sneering at psychological research and its impact on physical and mental health. How does the Irish state think that a pregnant woman might respond in a situation where she is threatened with the police, solicitors and social workers? Oftentimes for no valid reasons. With calm and lots of oxytocin, or with helplessness and lots of cortisol that affects not only her, but her unborn, who supposedly, the Irish state is trying to protect.

I am extremely passionate about this subject, having had a horrific experience during the last 6 weeks of my pregnancy. I will never step foot in the hospital where I gave birth as a pregnant woman, because, as Aja Teehan says, she knew what the Irish state was capable of, and she could very well find herself in the position of “Mother A”. I nearly found myself in Mother A's position too. University Hospital Waterford sought a high court order in order to force Mother A to undergo a caesarean in March 2013 because she was 13 days overdue and had had a previous caesarean. Funnily enough, it was shortly after, in May 2013, that the new “consent” guidelines were published.

The conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud is the central dialectic of psychological trauma ~ Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

No comments: