Daily Archives: April 22, 2013

A protest in memory of Savita Halappanavar in November 2012 (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty)

A protest in memory of Savita Halappanavar in November 2012 (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty)

The first time a referendum on abortion was held in Ireland, it was 1983 and I was 12. Our local church in a small town in the south east was crowded and silent as the priest told those who supported the ‘right to abortion’ to leave now.

No one left, or if they did, I was too transfixed on the pulpit to see them go. If the Catholic church didn’t fight this, I remember the priest saying, then it would slide into irrelevancy, not much good for anything except perhaps fighting to save the whale. In those pre-environmentalist days, it was a reference that completely baffled me and I assume much of the congregation. Who wanted to save the whale?

Outside the church, there were people with collection tins and petitions. Later I remember a debate at my convent school; a teacher asked who agreed that abortion was murder and got a unanimous show of hands. A pro-life campaigner came to school and I remember not just the three foot foetus on the projector but also the scary realisation that anyone who did have an abortion would most likely end up in a wheelchair.

Nearly 30 years on and several referendums later, an inquest this week investigated the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman who died in an Irish hospital last October after a miscarriage. Her family say hospital staff repeatedly refused her requests for an abortion. A midwife told her an abortion was not possible because Ireland was a “Catholic country”. On Friday – what would have been her fifth wedding anniversary – the inquest found her death was by ‘medical misadventure’. Her husband said his wife’s treatment had been “barbaric and inhuman”. 

Boston With one of the suspects dead and the other in hospital, the Boston marathon investigation has turned to the men’s motives. The Wall Street Journal looks at how a turn to religion caused fissures within the family. David Remnick examines the disaffection of the Tsarnaev brothers. (It seems the links the brothers had to Chechnya were rather remote.) Edward Luce thinks Obama should tread warily after the Boston attack.
The US economy is getting a Hollywood makeover, as the Bureau of Economic Analysis rewrites economic history by adding 21st century components such as film royalties, and research and development spending. This will make the US economy three per cent bigger.
♦ Civic involvement in the rescue effort following the Sichuan earthquake was so big, officials had to turn helpers away.
♦ Steve Schwarzman, founder of alternative investment company Blackstone, is donating $100m to establish an elite international education programme at Tsinghua University in Beijing.