Irish women sawn open during childbirth seek justice
February 28, 2016 5:02 AM   Subscribe

"I felt sick when I signed the paper, when I signed away all my rights. It looked so horrific when it was all there. I can't help but think about the time I was getting a scan and the man said 'You're cut asunder, turn around and I'll show you what they've done to you'. I just didn't want to see it. I knew what happened was so awful."

Symphysiotomy, a procedure to cut the cartilage joining the two halves of the pelvis, can carry a lower risk of life-threatening complications than cesarean section in places with limited medical resources. It requires substantial recovery time for the patient and is now almost never performed where there are adequate hospitals. As many as 1,500 Irish women underwent symphystiotomy without their consent on the insistence of the Catholic Church and doctors seeking practice for the developing world. Without knowing this had been done to them, many experienced terrible complications. Many didn't find out what had been done to them until recent efforts to have the victims compensated. Those efforts are being criticized for all kinds of reasons, but some of the women are just glad to get something, fearing they don't have much time left.
posted by hollyholly (17 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
posted by billiebee at 5:23 AM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

It was butchery and it was a crime motivated by a desire to control women's reproductive choices. C-sections might have made it too dangerous to be pregnant again multiple times, so cut em open instead! Fucking bastards.

What the government is doing now is revictimizing those women to protect itself and its image and it's outrageous. I am honestly shocked at the self-serving response at the expense of deliberately injured citizens, though I know I shouldn't be. Business as usual and women pay for it in blood.

I'm currently sitting here having on and off contractions, due with my second baby any day now. I don't know if the anger I feel is partly hormonal and partly terror, but it is blinding.
posted by lydhre at 5:27 AM on February 28, 2016 [38 favorites]

Sweet Jesus..... does every man, every priest and lawyer and doctor in Ireland hate women?
posted by easily confused at 5:44 AM on February 28, 2016 [27 favorites]

The Catholic Church's complete demonstrated inability to recognize evil when staring it in the face never ceases to amaze me--nor does the Church's calm nonchalance when it knowingly commits evil deeds. I should be used to it by now, but I'm just fucking amazed, every time. I found out in just the past few years that two of my childhood priests were child rapists (which the Church knew about, and protected), and that the principal of my Catholic grade school had a history of child sexual abuse (also known by the Church and swept under the rug).

Then, of course, we have the Church's treatment of women, as though they're mere objects on which the Church can and should physically carve their interpretation of God's will.

And why? It all comes down to one reason: They know they will get away with it, every time.
posted by duffell at 5:47 AM on February 28, 2016 [23 favorites]

They put me under anesthetic and the first thing I remember when I came to was terrible pain. I'll never forget it, it was horrific. My pelvis had been cut through. I had no control of my bladder and I couldn't walk. When I tried to go to the toilet, the doctor said there was nothing wrong with me, that it was 'just my nerves'. I was only 26 years old. I couldn't walk afterwards; for six months I was in so much pain and completely incontinent. A few months after that, I had a procedure called the Old Manchester Repair. It's where they stitch the neck of your bladder. That just made things worse. I had no control over my bladder and no feeling; they had damaged all my nerves. To this day, 50 odd years later, I still have urinary tract infections from that operation. I still had no control over my bladder so I went for another operation called a sling. That doctor was so horrible to me. The first thing he said was 'Why do I have to fix someone else's mistakes?' That operation went wrong and I started to swell inside. It took the hospital 24 hours to find the doctor so I could have it removed. He sent me home on antidepressants, sort of saying it was all in my mind.
Holy fuck. This is monstrous.
posted by Fizz at 5:52 AM on February 28, 2016 [41 favorites]

I took the schemes like the other women because we could die next year - some women died without getting anything. I could go tomorrow and so I took it. I have a son who suffers from mental illness; I did it for him.

When I got my payment I got a letter from the judge saying 'Congratulations'. The scheme never tried to meet me. I offered to meet them and even take a lie detector test so they would know everything I'm saying is the truth."

"Congratulations - you're being gaslighted by your own government.


By the way.

We realize this is a piddling sum relative to the trauma we inflicted in you and the pain and suffering you still experience. It matters little to us. We've done the math. You're not likely to be with us too much longer.


One more thing.

The records you sent us that prove we did this to you are going to be destroyed.

We still sleep well at night knowing you're very, very likely to be disbelieved."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:35 AM on February 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I apologize for not having a cite for this, but I looked. I swear I can remember reading an ancient account (I mean third-hand or so, a sentence in some text) of the people of Ireland, which recorded that their women had a distinctive waddling walk. This, the writer said, was because the Irish people broke the pelvises of their infant girls, so as to make childbirth easy for them.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:36 AM on February 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

You have only to look at Ireland, Spain, and Chile to see what the Catholic Church does, even in the modern era, when it knows it will not be opposed or held accountable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:38 AM on February 28, 2016 [13 favorites]

Never mind, I can cite myself, citing Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (1905). No wonder I thought I remembered it.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:40 AM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I suspect this is one of the many reasons why Ireland isn't so Catholic anymore.

In 1984, nearly 90 percent of Irish Catholics went to Mass every week. But by 2011, only 18 percent did.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:54 AM on February 28, 2016 [18 favorites]

Current fear: that the slow but steady removal of reproductive rights will make America's future look like Ireland's past (and present).
posted by palomar at 7:22 AM on February 28, 2016 [17 favorites]

I read the first part of the article, but I couldn't even read the individual stories at the end. It was just too awful. If I can't even manage to read about it, I can't imagine what it was like to live it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's easy to treat someone this way, if you don't really think she's a person. The story of Anarcha, one of the slave women doctors experimented on to develop c-sections, shows how this attitude is woven deep into the history of medicine.
posted by emjaybee at 7:38 AM on February 28, 2016 [23 favorites]

Seems the Catholic church and the doctors should make restitution as well as the government.
posted by 2manyusernames at 7:48 AM on February 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

@easily confused

Hello from Ireland! No, we don't all hate women. But the establishment once did.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:58 AM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

[screaming inside]
posted by rhizome at 12:05 PM on February 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

The bargain between the Catholic church and the Irish government post 1916 created a society where this sort of thing could easily happen. Similar horrors happened in many other places, but I've always found the Irish societal acceptance of the dehumanisation of women - children and adults alike - particularly chilling, because it happened in a nominally free democracy and unforced conformity was enough to generate such massive suffering. I am in no way anti-faith per se, but I am constantly shocked back into the need to treat power with acidic scepticism.

It drives me crazy that one of the themes of the Leave campaign over Brexit is that it means we can stop all that European human rights nonsense, when you know from cases like this that states prefer their people with fewer rights for a reason. And this from people who justify all manner of bad policy because of 'sending signals' - it would 'send the wrong signal' if there was a sane discussion about decriminalising drugs, for example, so no amount of evidence or logic is enough. But when it comes to sending signals about basic human rights, of course, that argument does not apply.

No matter how horrible the sins of the past, they were all carried out by people much like us - and the more like us they were, the more pressing the need to pay close attention.
posted by Devonian at 2:11 PM on February 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

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