Is this 2014 or the dark ages in Ireland?
Guest Blog post by AIMS Ireland member, Noreen Barron
The recent high court ruling by Judge Sean Ryan has made a mockery of a woman's human and legal right to informed consent and refusal. Ryan's judgement also sets a very dangerous and frightening precedent for any woman giving birth in Ireland. In a nutshell, pregnant women in Ireland no longer have any legal or human rights to bodily autonomy.
Essentially what this means is that the bodies of pregnant women belong to the state and it is the state who will decide what procedures will be performed on a pregnant woman. A woman's consent, whether informed or not, is negligible and not needed. This is demonstrated by Ryan stating that: “The midwife was the person entitled, authorised and qualified to make the decision”. Read that statement again and again until the reality of it sinks in. It means that women are not the people who are entitled, authorised or qualified to make the decision about whether or not a medical procedure is performed on them. His ruling is morally and ethically reprehensible.
I don’t believe that the majority of women realise the gravity of Sean Ryan’s ruling, because if they did, there would be a major outcry. At least I hope there would be. Maybe that outcry will only happen when enough women suffer the effects of the fact that they have absolutely no legal say anymore about what happens to them during pregnancy or birth when issues arise. They will be “performed on” whether they like it or not. Maybe they'll even be strapped down, or dragged by the police to the hospital ... who knows where this precedent will lead?
We have seen evidence of what other countries are capable of when it comes to pregnant women, Adelir Carmen Lemos de Goés, from Brazil, was forced to have a caesarean section against her will for example. And right here in Ireland, Waterford Regional Hospital brought a woman to the high court in 2013 in order to force her to have a caesarean. She decided to have the procedure herself before a judgement could be made, under extreme distress I am sure, but rest assured of the fact that a hospital prepared to go to those lengths is not a good sign for any pregnant woman. Women should be absolutely outraged at this recent ruling.
Along with this appalling ruling, Ryan has also sent out a clear message that if any woman dare have the audacity to stand up for themselves and sue the state, they will have the state’s costs awarded against them. Now, is it just me, or does that seem like a bullying tactic? Might that decision have been made in order to deter other women from coming forward because they don’t want to be saddled with massive legal bills? Is it not intimidatory? Does that decision have anything to do with the fact that we are in a recession because we bailed out the private debt of banks and there's not much money left in the coffers for women who have been injured (or have died), both physically and psychologically, as a direct result of the state's actions or inactions?
What is interesting about legal precedents being set, is that, on any particular day, and with any particular prejudices, a single judge can decide on a legal matter, set a precedent, and the entire legal system will follow suit from thereon. No judge undergoes any psychological evaluation to make sure that they are up to the very important job of settling legal matters and setting legal precedents. Perhaps it is a good idea that this be changed? After all, the law is a very serious matter and it affects each and every one of us, which is why we need to care very much about the people who make and implement the law.