The parents of Savita Halappanavar, who suffered a miscarriage and died after being refused an abortion in an Irish hospital, slammed Ireland’s abortion laws yesterday. Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she miscarried and died last month. Ireland’s government confirmed that Halappanavar suffered from blood poisoning and died after being denied an abortion, reigniting the debate over legalising abortion in the Catholic country.
“In an attempt to save a 4-month-old fetus they killed my 30-year-old daughter. How is that fair you tell me?” A Mahadevi, Halappanavar’s mother, asked.
Law above life? Protestors gather outside the Irish Parliament building holding pictures of Savita Halappanavar, who was refused a pregnancy termination after doctors told her it was a Catholic country. Pic/AFP
“How many more cases will there be? The rules should be changed as per the requirement of Hindus. We are Hindus, not Christians,” she said.
Halappanavar’s father, Andanappa Yalagi, said the combination of medical negligence and Irish abortion laws led to his daughter’s death. The spokesman for Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said in a Twitter post that the Indian Embassy was “following the matter.”
Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, said doctors at University Hospital Galway in western Ireland determined that his wife was miscarrying within hours of her hospitalisation for severe pain on October 21. He said over the next three days, doctors refused their requests for an abortion to combat her searing pain and fading health.
It was only after the foetus died that its remains were surgically removed. Within hours, Savita was placed under sedation in intensive care with blood poisoning, her husband said. By October 27, her heart, kidneys and liver had stopped working, and she was pronounced dead the next day.
Three separate investigations are looking into the cause of Halappanavar’s death.
Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling said the procedure should be legalised for situations when the 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.
An estimated 4,000 Irish women travel next door to England every year, where abortion has been legal on demand since 1967. But that option is difficult, if not impossible, if the woman’s health is failing.
Irish condemn abortion law
Thousands of people rallied outside Ireland’s parliament on Wednesday to demand strict abortion rules be eased. At least 2,000 people gathered for a candle-lit vigil to demand that the government legislate to close a legal loophole that leaves it unclear when the threat to the life of a pregnant woman provides legal justification for an abortion. “My reaction was outrage. Shame that this happened in my country,” protester Emer McNally (33), and six months pregnant, said. “It’s scary to think that medical treatment was denied.”
The news of Halappanavar’s death overnight sparked a wave of anger on Irish social media, with more than 50,000 people sharing the Irish Times’ lead story on the issue.
Public probe sought in death
An independent public inquiry must be conducted into the death of Savita Halappanavar, said CVR Prasad, a surgeon who is a close friend of Halappanavar and her husband Praveen. Prasad, who visited Halappanavar in hospital before she died, said, “Any inquiry should be public. It should not be conducted by the Health Service Executive (HSE) or the hospital. It should be independent. I hope that might save the life of another women. This should never happen to another woman. Religion and medicine should never mix.”
Outrage on Twitter
Sadness, anger and outrage ruled in the virtual world on Halappanavar’s death. Under the hashtags #RIPSavita and #legislateforX, twitterati voiced their outrage over the death. LeanneWoodfull posted, “I’m glad #Savita’s story is spreading worldwide, Ireland needs to put in the spotlight for this monstrosity.
#RIPSavita”. ThisGodRocks tweeted, “It’s so fundamentally wrong to place religious beliefs above saving a human life. Savita had a heartbeat too.” Colette Browne tweeted, “Enda Kenny says to WAIT WAIT WAIT. Continue to WAIT for reports that should have been published months ago. Disgrace.” Another tweet went, “Dear Ireland, get your priorities right. Legislate for basic human rights & stop worrying about medieval religious beliefs.”
While Mauricegueret posted, “Now that Ireland has a prized seat on the UN Human Rights Council, it can spread its medieval misogyny worldwide.” The Womenscouncilireland posted, “The death of Savita is a national shame, sincere condolences to her husband and family.” Another post went, “A woman’s preventable death is the sad and shameful result of years of political, moral cowardice in Ireland.”