That religion has been at the centre of most of the armed conflicts in history is not even a debatable point. What does not get talked about much is the impact of religion in our day to day conflicts. The tragic case of Indian-born dentist Savitha Halappanavar who died of septicaemia in Ireland after miscarrying her child is a classic example of how religious dogma takes lives of people who could have been saved easily.

Halappanavar, 31, asked for medical termination of pregnancy at her Irish hospital late October. She was denied that choice because Ireland, a catholic country, does not permit abortions in accordance to its faith. Although her 17-week-old foetus was found to be medically unviable, there was a faint heartbeat present, and therefore an abortion would have meant “killing” the foetus. The rigidity of the hospital in denying the Belgaum native her right to abort resulted in the woman’s death.

Shockingly, if Halappanavar had indeed terminated her pregnancy, she would have been awarded a life imprisonment sentence as per Irish law.
The question then is should the state intervene or interfere in what is clearly a woman’s choice. The answer should be a resounding no. This is the case in India where abortion is allowed up to 20 weeks into pregnancy. More important, that choice is left to the mother.

The trouble with religious dogmas is that they bind an individual and, in the case of Halappanavar, the state in to a rigidity of attitude that can cost precious human lives needlessly. The doctors at the Galway University Hospital only acted in accordance with the law. If they had indeed terminated the pregnancy, it would have been both the doctors as well as the mother who would have been jailed.

This is the tragedy of religion interfering in the matters of the state. True secularism separates the two. Perhaps it is time we got the two divorced.