Imagine getting pregnant, only to be diagnosed with cancer. Now imagine it getting worse. Much worse.
In a story that should give women everywhere pause, Michelle Harte was forced to travel out of the country to have an abortion because she was living in Ireland, where the law only allows abortion in cases where a hospital has determined a mother's life is at risk if she continues with the pregnancy. Ironically, her own doctors had advised her to terminate to proceed with cancer treatments, but the ethics committee that had final say on her abortion said no.
By the time all was said and done, the delay in cancer treatment allowed the disease to spread in her body. She's now been declared "terminally ill." If she dies, she'll leave behind her daughter, motherless.
Harte's story came out this week after the story of yet another woman in a similar situation blew wide open the problems with governments having the ultimate say over a woman's womb. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland breached the "human rights" of that woman -- currently known as C -- by refusing her an abortion, forcing her to seek care outside of the country as well.
To put this in perspective, just this week, doctors began talking about the very real possibility that Americans delaying childbirth will increase the number of pregnant women facing a breast cancer diagnosis. The doctors recommended women get treatment for the cancer as soon as possible ... and outlined the risks of sticking with the pregnancy.
Put the two situations together along with a third: imagine the right-to-lifers get their way. Seventy percent of evangelical Christians in this country are in favor of completely overturning Roe v. Wade. There would be no room for "well, if you're sick, you can choose." American women would face Michelle Harte's horror -- the choice, followed by the stress of traveling while terminally ill, plus the stigma. As her partner Neil Doolan told the Irish Times:
She was very unwell. She was very stressed out, physically very weak, nauseous, and vomiting.
It's easy for the right to life contingent to mark abortion off as the easy out for loose women and stupid teenagers. But women like Michelle Harte crop up every day. Moms who were doing nothing wrong, but are treated like criminals trapped in the jail of their own bodies.
Women die when they can't take control of their healthcare. How is that any better than aborting a fetus?
Image via PinkMoose/Flickr