Woman who died after being denied an abortion told Irish doctors ‘I’m neither Irish nor Catholic’

THE mother of a young woman who died in Ireland after doctors refused to perform an abortion that may have saved her life has slammed the country’s strict anti-abortion law.

Savita Halappanavar’s mother, who lives with her husband in Belgaum, southwest India, said:

In order to save a 3-week child, they killed my 31-years-old daughter.

Protesters hold pictures of Savita Halappanavar as they gather outside Leinster House, the Irish Parliament building, during a demonstration in favor of abortion legislation in Dublin yesterday. Photo: PETER MUHLY / AFP / Getty Images

Savita’s father added:

This is because of the negligence of the Irish doctors. We are looking for the inquiry. Irish rules must be changed. I am requesting to change the law of Ireland.

The woman’s husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, said:

Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning, Savita asked if they could not save the baby, could they end the pregnancy? The consultant said: ‘As long as there is a foetal heartbeat, we can’t do anything.’

Again on Tuesday morning … the consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ but they said there was nothing they could do.

He said his wife vomited repeatedly and collapsed in a restroom that night, but doctors wouldn’t terminate the foetus because its heart was still beating. The foetus died the following day and its remains were surgically removed. Within hours, Savita was placed under sedation in intensive care with blood poisoning and he was never able to speak with her again .

She was pronounced dead early Sunday, October 28, and, according to this report, Praveen Halappanavar took his wife’s remains back to India for a Hindu funeral and cremation on November 03.

Rachel Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Galway Pro-Choice, an abortion rights organisation, is reported here as saying:

If a story like this does not change the minds of the political establishment in Ireland, I don’t know what will. We need to ensure something like this never happens again.

But  the pro-life Youth Defence group, which campaigns against any change in the existing abortion laws, released a statement in response to the death stating that:

Ireland’s ban on abortion does not pose a threat to women’s lives.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs is also taking an interest in the death of the dentist. The Ministry said that the Indian embassy in Dublin is closely monitoring the developments. It stated:

We deeply regret the tragic death of Ms Halappanavar. Our Embassy in Dublin is following the matter closely. We understand that the Irish authorities have initiated two inquiries and we are awaiting the results.

India National Commission for Women also said a change in Ireland’s laws was needed.

Even an Indian Catholic priest, Father Dominic Emmanuel, entered the fray, saying that while his religion bans abortion, the mother in this case should have been saved.

The debate over legalising abortion in Ireland flared on Wednesday when the Government confirmed the circumstances of Savita’s death. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death

Her case highlighted the legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems can find themselves in predominantly Catholic Ireland.

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found the procedure should be legalised in cases where a woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy.

Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.

The vast bulk of Irish women wanting abortions, an estimated 4,000 per year, simply travel to England, where abortion has been legal on demand since 1967. But that option is difficult, if not impossible, for women in failing health.

The hospital declined to say whether doctors believed Halappanavar’s blood poisoning could have been reversed had she received an abortion rather than waiting for the foetus to die on its own.

In a statement, it described its own investigation into the death, and a parallel probe by the government’s Health Service Executive, as “standard practice” whenever a pregnant woman dies in a hospital. The Galway coroner also planned a public inquest.

Hat tip: Alan Prim and Andy Brown