'This is a Catholic country': Woman dies of septicaemia after being refused an abortion in Irish hospital

 

The death in Ireland of a woman whose repeated requests for an abortion were turned down - reportedly because “this is a Catholic country” - has sparked international protests and condemnation.

In Dublin more than a thousand people staged a demonstration outside the Irish parliament amid calls for an independent inquiry into the death.

Savita Halappanavar, a dentist of Indian origin, died in a hospital in Galway city last month from complications when a termination of her pregnancy was delayed after she had been miscarrying for several days. She was 27.

In a series of poignant radio interviews her husband Praveen said he had no doubt his wife Savita would still be alive if the procedure had been carried out earlier, as she had requested.

The case has drawn attention in the starkest and most tragic way to the state of Ireland's abortion laws, which have a notorious lack of clarity. Particularly tight restrictions on abortion lead thousands of Irishwomen to travel to Britain each year for terminations.

But attempts over decades to liberalise the law, or to clarify it, have not been successful.

The government, which has been considering changes to the laws, has said two internal investigations are being held into the death of Mrs Halappanavar. But it is resisting calls for an independent inquiry.

Speaking from India, Mr Halappanavar said he and his wife had been on top of the world to be expecting a baby, but she had gone to Galway University hospital with back pains. She was found to be miscarrying and was admitted to hospital.

She asked for a termination because she was in agony, but this was refused.

He went on: “A doctor said it was the law - that this is a Catholic country. Savita said, `I am neither Irish not Catholic' but they said there was nothing they could do.”

He said the doctor said that the baby would not survive, but that as long as there was a foetal heartbeat “there was nothing they could do.” Three days followed, he added, in which the heartbeak was checked several times a day.

His wife's condition deteriorated until, he said: “The nurse came running. She just told me to be brave and she took me near Savita and said, `Will you be OK to be there during her last few minutes?' I said yes.

“It was all in their hands and they just let her go. How can you let a young woman go to save a baby who will die anyway? Savita could have had more babies.

“What is the use in being angry? I've lost her. I am talking about this because it shouldn't happen to anyone else. It has been very hard to understand how this can happen in the 21st century.”

The cause of her death was given as septicaemia and e-coli.

A left-wing member of the Irish parliament, Clare Daly, declared: “A woman has died because Galway University Hospital refused to perform an abortion needed to prevent serious risk to her life.

“This is a situation we were told would never arise. An unviable foetus was given priority over the woman's life, who unfortunately and predictably developed septicaemia and died.”

Health minister Dr James Reilly told the Dublin parliament: “If it becomes apparent - and I can't say with any certainty one way or the other although I doubt it - that there was any hesitation here because of moral or religious beliefs, then that would be an extremely serious matter.”

Socialist member Joe Higgins said it was “a monstrous and medieval position in the Ireland of the 21st century.”

Twenty years ago a controversial case in which a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl, a pregnant and suicidal rape victim, was permitted to travel to Britain for a termination.

This represented a relaxation in the actual position on abortion, but since then six successive governments have veered away from attempting to enact legislation to give legal effect to this.

The authorities have lately however come under pressure from Europe to clarify what exactly the legal position is, especially since the European Court of Human Rights handed down a ruling critical of the existing confusion.

The government is due to report to Europe shortly what progress it has made. The current tragic case will propel the issue to the top of the political agenda.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss