Are women in Ireland second class citizens?

As the child of a strong willed, independent mother, I grew up believing that girls were as good as boys. I was also aware that many boys did not agree with me. In an effort to live as an equal in this male dominated world, as a child  I suppressed any girlishness within me. I refused to wear dresses, I cut my hair short and acted as non girly like as I could.

However I was up against it. Despite being good at football the boys on the road did not allow me play most of the time. I could climb trees better than most but again was not allowed do that with the boys. I can still remember the fury I felt some days returning home, having been excluded from a game. ‘I am as good as those boys’  played on a loop inside my head.

As the years moved on I remained extremely sensitive to being discounted from something because I was a girl. I have three girls of my own and have tried over the years to teach them the lessons I learned from my own mother.

So why am I writing this post today? What has prompted my thinking on this?

Well i am writing because I am incensed, furious, and in a way incredulous about something that happened here in Ireland recently. I am also amazed by the fact that most Irish women are unaware of what has happened. So let me explain.

In the high court a judge has removed our right to birth our babies as we wish. He removed our rights to have an opinion. He told us we are not well informed. He told us that the health professionals can make the choice for us, regardless of whether we agree or not. They do not need to have our consent!

Let us put this in perspective. Can you imagine going in for an operation and not having to sign a consent form? The doctor knows best. Would you be happy with that, regardless of how knowledgeable the doctor was?

So why would a judge rule that it is okay during childbirth for a midwife to do what she thinks is right even if you have asked her not to?

This article by Mind the baby explains the situation very well.

I understand that many of you will not read have time to click the link, so as you are here, let me try to explain the situation as best I can.

Recently a case came to the courts in which an Irish woman sued Kerry General Hospital. She claimed that due to a midwife rupturing her membranes against her expressed wishes, she required an emergency caesarian section. As a result of the artificial rupture of membranes, a natural birth had been denied, a life endangering complication had resulted and an invasive operation had been required.

However the judge decided that the midwife was trained, and was entitled to do what she thought best, regardless of the woman’s wishes. In his own words, the judge said ‘

“The midwife was the person entitled, authorised and qualified to make the decision” 

The key point here is that this judge agreed that the midwife did not require the consent of the woman, in order to rupture her membranes. This woman had no voice. Her body was no longer her own responsibility.

I am beyond words. Why are more women not concerned about this? Why are the newspapers not discussing it? This judge is saying lie back, the doctors and nurses will do what’s best for you. If you agree, wonderful, if you do not, tough, as we can do what we think is right regardless. No consent required.

I have no doubt that many who will read the headlines behind this story will believe it to be a group of hippy home birth, or natural birth freaks on a bandwagon, but it is anything but.

This is about the rights of women to be treated with dignity and respect. The rights of a woman to have an opinion, and the rights of ourselves and our daughters to write a birth plan and know it will be taken seriously.

This ruling tells me, that the world has not changed very much from the male dominated world of my childhood days.


Justice Sean Ryan also awarded costs against the family in this case. They are now liable for both their own legal costs and those of the HSE. AIMs has begun a fund to help this family meet the costs. If you want more details you will find it here. AIMS Ireland Womens Support Fund.

21 thoughts on “Are women in Ireland second class citizens?

    1. I know Sadhbh, especially as there is so little in the papers during the Summer you would think that they would have noticed this.
      But then again maybe there are not enough female journalists around to understand the significance.

  1. Unbelievable. I can see this happening in many places and know it’s part of centuries of controlling women. But Ireland? Ireland? For many years it seems to have progressed and then…. wow. Ireland?

    1. I cannot believe this will remain in law. A supreme court decision will hopefully sort it out. It is a dangerous precedent in my opinion.

  2. Your link is not working so I couldn’t read the whole thing but going by your summary I’m not surprised, women and children have been second class citizens before and after independence, same old, same old.

    Justice Sean Ryan?

    There is something disturbing about one man being able to deliver a verdict that could affect thousands of women.

    I suppose there could be a grey area if the nurse genuinely thought that either the mother or the baby’s life was in danger than I could understand it. That doesn’t appear to be the case though and the shocking case of Savita Halappanavar tells you all you need to know about people entitled, authorised and qualified to make decisions.

    1. I am astounded that one mans decision can have such huge ripples.
      Thanks for the tip off re the link I’ve it sorted now. I just cannot believe that if you say no, it can be ignored.
      Recently there was a case of a young girl with anorexia who needed tube feeding but they had to go to court to allow the medics access to her body, I just can’t believe we have no rights over our own bodies now!
      I’m not happy about reading the ‘justice’ part in front of Sean Ryans name in your comment. It doesn’t really sit well does it?
      As you say there may be more to it than i have read, although the link was comprehensive, but the decision remains the same.

      1. Thanks. I’ve read it now and it is an awful decision and an awful event for the woman to go through. The bizarre aspect of this is the judge has removed any control or power the woman has and heaped it onto the midwife and providing no responsibility for the consequences that power might have.

        No. Justice does not sit well in front of his name.

        Like you pointed out with the young girl with anorexia, rights are being stripped away every day by governments and judges.

    1. I can’t accept it. Surely it will be challenged. It can’t stand up in the Supreme court. Am amazed in modern times one man made this decision.

  3. this is so awful and why do some people in power feel it is their right to tell others what to do with their bodies? this is unacceptable and i cannot believe more people are not up in arms. i imagine it will be taken to the higher courts and challenged.

    1. Yes fingers crossed Beth, but for now we are stuck with it. But it’s the silence and the ignorance of the public in general that is so very sickening.

  4. Good point made…you also indirectly highlighted something I also have noticed….thete are many in the male gender who abhor a women being better than them at doing something….therefore a women needs to be mentally stronger in order not to need the approval of others to know how good she really is……

    1. I hate to admit it but I think you are correct. In many circumstances it is not good enough to be as good as men, in many instances women must be better than men in order to be treated equally.

  5. Can’t believe this.How can one man dictate the course of so many future labours with one decision?Its appalling. We re going backwards not forwards!

  6. And of course it is always the women and their families who bear the consequences: because decisions are not always made on health grounds either – such as the decision to perform a (costly) caesarian or not – a denial here when I was a public patient may have been one of the causes of my daughter’s problems.

    1. Oh my goodness that is a very difficult possibility to be living with, but I do believe you are right about decisions being made. I am not completely convinced that the acceleration of labour is always down to the ‘best interests of a baby or mother’.

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