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Woman Dies After Being Denied Abortion: When Religious Rules Trump Science

Ireland's anti-choice policies lead to a woman's death, and to domestic and international outcry.

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And yet despite these factors, opinion on the island is changing rapidly. In the Time magazine article about the first abortion clinic in Belfast (which was met by hundreds of protesters), a startling statistic popped out:

Now the time for kicking the issue into the long grass may have passed. A poll carried out last year in the republic showed 54% of the country’s electorate backing the full legalization of abortion, up from 37% four years earlier. And, for the first time, women in the south contemplating unwanted pregnancies need only look north to see another option.

Indeed, with these numbers and with Halappanavar's tragic death--the account which appears to include Catholic hegemony and possibly xenophobia --the debate is going to happen no matter what. International feminists need to support Irish feminists in their struggles, both legal and social, and listen to their concerns. My guess is the climate on abortion in Ireland may change, and if it is ever legalized in some circumstances, Irish feminists are going to have to contend with an anti-choice movement just as virulent (if not more so) as ours--and backed by thousands of years of patriarchal Catholic tradition.

And if our circumstances are any indicator, they will never stop fighting. After all, we are besieged by legislators who want to turn back the clock and treat American women as Savita Halappanavar was treated. Ohio’s zombie “Heartbeat bill,” which has been introduced yet again, is a prime example.

Sarah Seltzer is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at

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