Ever heard of symphysiotomy? Probably not; my spell check doesn't even know what it is. But it's a painful surgical procedure which involves breaking a woman's pelvis during childbirth that sounds like an ancient torture method but was once an alternative to Caesareans used in maternity hospitals across Ireland in the 20th century.
When members of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) met in Dublin yesterday, they were able to recognize each other thanks to the "signature limp" survivors have. (Other less visible related problems include chronic back pain and incontinence.) Group members, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s, say that the operations were carried out without the women's consent "mainly for religious reasons, by obstetricians who were opposed to family planning." Huh; sounds horrifingly familiar.
The survivors met to see the first screening of a documentary about the practice, which compares it to methods used in Kenyan hospitals today. But based on Savita Halappanavar's tragic story — she was denied a medical termination in an Irish hospital even though she was miscarrying and in severe pain, and later died — it's not like things have gotten all that much better for modern-day Irish women, either.