'She nearly begged them for an abortion. Instead we lost her'



The parents of Savita Halappanavar say they will never forget the moment their daughter first told him she was expecting a child.

Andanappa Yalagi and his wife Akkamahadevi, had flown to Ireland in the summer to spend three months with their daughter and son-in-law, Praveen. Shortly after hitting the tarmac, Savita told her parents she was five-weeks pregnant.

Her parents had had no inkling and were excited by the news, as early in the term as it was. If she herself was worried, Savita did not let them change their plans. “It didn’t stop them from taking us around Ireland. We thoroughly enjoyed their company and visited many tourist spots,” said Mr Halappanavar, 65, speaking today by phone from Belgaum, a town in the southern state of Karnataka, around 300 miles north-west of Bangalore.

Indeed, during their time in Ireland with Savita and Praveen, the family visited Dublin, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher, on the west coast. And when it was time for her parents to leave on October 31, Savita called her parents even though she had gone into hospital for a back-pain check-up.  “She was more concerned about us flying back to India,’’ added her father, a businessman.

Last week, it was the body of Savita, lying in a coffin, that made the journey back home to southern India. She was cremated last Friday, according to Hindu rites, just days before the family would normally have been preparing their home for Diwali, the festival of light.

The needless death of Savita has shocked India, a largely conservative country, but where abortion has been legally available since 1971 in cases of a rape, where the woman is unmarried and below the age of 18 and, most importantly, where the physical or mental health of the mother may be at risk.

Television channels and commentators have taken up the issue of whether religious beliefs should take precedence over the Hippocratic oath. A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Delhi said it deeply regretted her death and that the death of an Indian national in “such circumstances is matter of concern”. A spokesman added that the Indian embassy in Dublin was monitoring the issue.

The parents of Savita say they cannot understand why a termination was denied to their daughter. Savita’s mother said she hoped the publicity that her daughter’s case was receiving would help women in a similar circumstances, both in Ireland and elsewhere.  “She almost begged them to terminate her pregnancy but the inhuman and cruel doctors there told her that as the foetus’s heartbeat was still faintly being heard, they could not do so. Eventually, we lost her too,’’ she added.

Savita, 31, who has two brothers, had gone to Ireland to be with her husband, whom she wed in an arranged marriage in 2008. Before leaving India, she had taken qualifying examinations that allowed her to practise dentistry. Her parents say she telephoned them every week, without exception

Savita’s husband’s, Praveen, who has also returned to India, today had his mobile phone switched off. His father-in-law, Mr Yalagi, said the family intended to launch legal action against the Galway University Hospital, where the young woman died.

“She could have been saved had the doctors removed the foetus,” insisted Mr Yalagi. “Their refusal on the ground that it was a Catholic country where abortions were banned resulted in two lives being lost.”

“I was on my own. I felt like it was a horrible dirty thing”

Case Study

Like thousands of women from Ireland every year, Michelle, who became pregnant while on the Pill, travelled to England for an abortion in secret, with the help of the Abortion Support Network.

She told only her partner, her mother and her doctor of her intention, and after gathering enough money, arranging flights and child care for her son, she travelled alone.

“It was a very isolating situation. Some other girls at the clinic were greeted by family members afterwards. I was on my own and had to make my way back to the airport by train. I felt like it was a horrible dirty thing,” she adds.

“I can’t sit down with a friend over a cup of tea and tell her about it,” she says. “It shouldn’t be like that. You should be able to get on a bus or a train and make a choice over what happens with your body and then get back to your life.

“I would like to get on a stage in front of people who are anti-abortion and tell them ‘Even though it breaks my heart to do this, it has to be a woman’s choice’.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas