A midwife has apologised for telling a woman suffering a miscarriage who later died that she could not have an abortion in Ireland because it was a "Catholic thing".
Ann Maria Burke admits she made the remark to Savita Halappanavar in last
October but insisted that it was meant it in kindness.
The senior midwife at University Hospital Galway, in West Ireland, said she used the reference to Catholic teaching after the 31-year-old dentist said she was Hindu and she would have ended her pregnancy in her home country. "I did mention it's a Catholic country. I didn't mention it in a hurtful context. It was in a conversation we had," she told Galway coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin.
Mrs Halappanavar, 31, who is originally from India, was admitted to the hospital on Sunday 21 October and delivered a dead baby daughter on Wednesday 24 October. She died the following Sunday of a heart attack caused by septicaemia due to E.coli.
Savita's husband, Praveen, claims they were told she could not have a termination to her pregnancy because "this is a Catholic country".
The inquest, in its third day at Galway courthouse, has heard claims that a consultant obstetrician, Dr Katherine Astbury, made the remark to Mrs Halappanavar and her husband Praveen, and also that the midwife said it.
Dr Astbury denies using the phrase.
But the consultant has admitted there were system failures in her care and she also warned of a lack of legal clarity for doctors treating pregnant women who suffer health risks.
The couple made repeated requests for the termination because the 17-week-old foetus Savita was carrying had died. Savita later died of blood poisoning and her plight has become a focus for international protests against Ireland's near-total ban on abortion.