The stinking shame of the Irish S.S.

All of those who exist today, when faced with the dread initials S.S.: immediately process their minds towards the Schutzstaffel also known by the Runic “ᛋᛋ”. Sections of the SS ordered German racial policies, the Waffen SS held combat troops, the Totenkopfverbände ran the death camps: included was also the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst. Ruthless, well-trained and superbly armed, Himmler’s SS ruled over Nazi Germany, and its policies, for almost all of the Nazi years in power.

Readers may well ask what are the coincidences which make me write those dread initials in a purely Irish context. Whilst clicking and poring over news articles for a post I shall be publishing about the laughably-titled ‘Mother and Baby Homes’, such as Tuam, I came across something which was new to me, and possibly many if not most readers of things ‘Irish-accented’. The term ‘Spain’s Symphysiotomy’ determines a procedure which is still used in backward African countries where modern medical knowledge is either far-distant, or useless because of a lack of both electricity and trained gynaecological staff. It involves either breaking or sawing through the actual pelvic bone structure, so as to allow a larger child to be born through a normal vaginal delivery, instead of a surgical caesarean, where the uterus is cut open, and the baby delivered without the necessity for a normal delivery.

The name Spain doesn’t refer to the Nation, but instead to Alex Spain, the then master of Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital. A dogma-bound Catholic, he disapproved of the new caesarean techniques, because it was felt that three ‘sections’ would determine that the mother could have no more children, and as the Catholic Church urged and virtually ordered the birth numbers per mother to be six-plus; he ‘knew’ that the ‘S.S.’ technique would allow more births to follow, as he saw Caesarean sections as a ‘moral hazard’ that capped family size and led to the ‘evil’ of family planning, Critics blame the continued use of the operation on a toxic mix of medical experimentation, Catholic aversion to caesarean sections and an institutional disregard for women’s autonomy.

Some professionals have actually defended this barbarity, stating that the ‘SS’ way of procuring a ‘natural birth’ was not only acceptable, but actually desirable. All I would state in return is to ask Ursula, or Cora, or Aileen, or indeed Dolores, if what they experienced under the hands, tools and hacksaws of this ‘dedicated bunch of healing professionals’, was either acceptable; or actually desirable!

Ask Rita McCann who stated:- “I feel extreme anger that it wasn’t explained, we weren’t given any options,” she says. “No one has taken responsibility. When I met other women it was so hard to listen to their stories – some had lost babies. No one could talk about it without dissolving in tears. I want an apology and an explanation – the explanation should have been done before they ever put a knife into us.”

No one has ever been punished, or fined, or deprived of their liberty for the suffering endured by these women; and when the Irish scheme appeared to give redress to the victims, it was only open for twenty days, and the victims had to sign away their rights to seek legal action!