On the National Maternity Hospital and the Sisters of Charity

I turn 40 this year.  I had my son in 1997, when I was just 19 years old.  The last Magdalen Laundry closed in 1996. I have been feminist since before I knew that term existed.  I am telling you this, because the context of my crisis pregnancy was in the aftermath of the X Case.  Ms X is the same age as me. What I understood at that time was that I had choices.  I knew they were limited and not the same as women in other countries, but I knew that I had some options.  Ultimately, I chose to continue with the pregnancy and raise my son.  I had an uncomplicated pregnancy and a healthy son.  My choice had complexity, of course, but far less than those of other women.

When my son was a baby I took a course in Women’s Studies in UCD at night.  I chose Women’s Health as one of my modules.  Though the term symphysiotomy had been in the news, the brutality of the procedure, the lack of informed consent by many, and the Catholic ethos behind the recommendation, and the lack of empowerment experienced by women was made clear to me through this module.  It was but one of the many important issues we discussed in that class. Again, it brought home to me that as a women, my health and my choices could be impacted by the religious (and other) beliefs of those in a position of privilege.

In the intervening years, we have had revelations of mother and child death due to concealed pregnancy, forced adoption, forced labour (work), forced (mismanaged) labours (birthing), gynaecological procedures that did not have proper consent, and refusal of life-saving procedures, most of which were decisions based on the misogyny of the Catholic Church. I was furious at the news that ownership of the National (state??) maternity hospital to the Catholic (or any) church. It is not only denying the experience of the women affected, it is an insult to the courage it took to speak out to family, community, church, and state. Despite the protestations of the Minister, I do not believe that there will be independence.  I believe that women’s health will again be impacted by the ethos of a religion that does not value them.