Thursday, November 15, 2012


I came home on Tuesday and started a new post. I wanted to to tell you about a nice encounter I'd just had on the bus, and by way of that, fill people in on what's been going on with me and ruminate on one or two things. As I do. But it wasn't coming out as I wanted it to so I left it for another day.

I won't be writing that post now.

I went to bed that night and did my usual ill-advised check on Twitter. News was just coming in about Savita and the first outpourings of anger were spewing thick and fast.


I don't know much about her. I know she was 31, the same age as me. The same age as my wife. I know that she had a beautiful smile, was intelligent, that she taught children to dance and clearly had a sense of fun. I know that she was pregnant. I know that pregnancy can be a dangerous thing, but that modern medicine is continually making it less so.

I know that she spent quite some time in a lot of pain. That she knew her baby was going to die. That she died, and she didn't have to.

Women have been 'other' in this country for time immemorial. Our national religion and guiding light, Roman Catholicism, revolves around notions of women having sex being disgusting. There once, most likely, was a woman called Mary who lived in Bethlehem. She had a child called Jesus. She did this because she had sex. This revolts certain men, so they said that she didn't. A few hundred years later they decided that her mammy didn't either, and put it into writing. And so it began. All the words on the entire Internet could not describe the horrors perpetrated on the women in this country in the name of Jesus, and his pure mammy and nana.

They rumble on here, largely because setting up our own rituals for births and deaths and weddings is difficult, and because it hurts our parents' and our grandparents' feelings when we don't abide by traditions, like everyone else.

On Wednesday morning a student of mine, a Polish priest and a genuinely nice man, pointed to a picture of Enda Kenny in his copy of Metro and said "Is he a good leader? I hear he is Catholic and then I hear he is going to pass law for abortion." I gritted my teeth. Metro were a day behind on the Savita story, so I filled him in. He felt that he foetus should have been aborted, and would have been in Poland. I talked to students from Libya, Kuwait, Italy, Spain and Japan - all highly conservative countries in their own ways. All were sure that Savita would not have been let die in those circumstances.

This goes beyond the divide of pro-choice and anti-choice, this is about recognising women as human beings. As I walked up to the Dáil with Rosie and Colm on Wednesday evening we saw Willie O'Dea and Jimmy Deenihan slithering their respective ways out of there. They were welcome to stay for the protest. Tears were far more likely to break out than violence, but they knew what they were. Cowards who voted against doing anything about our law. It's well for them how they take the backslaps and the hoisting onto shoulders every few years, the triumphalism and the showboating, the expenses and the salary, the pints of Guinness from local businessmen when they go down the local. The prayer to shivering prayer until they have dried the marrow from the bone.

We let them go home. We hope they slept well. We knew, like Emer, that we're all complicit in this. We were glad they were plenty of men there, as it will take men as well as women to stop this from happening again. We sat on the ground and we thought about Savita and we felt sad and we felt sorry.

1 comment(s):

Jo said...

Caitlin Moran talks about how every woman who's ever had an abortion should strike, for one day, and make the point about what abortion has enabled them to do, how it would affect the workforce and if it wasn't available.

I'd like to see every man who's ever availed of it stand up and say it too... no one talks about it, so we assume it doesn't happen to anyone we know. What is it though, one in four? It's happened to lots of people we know.

I know this is a little different. I know we haven't heard conclusively that a termination would have saved her - but what it comes down to in the end is that we let, no, we forced a grief stricken woman to suffer in agony until she died, in the name of our 'Catholic country'. You're so right, that women are seen as other, and it looks like Foreign Women are seen as more other than most.