An Ireland hospital refused an abortion to a woman who was miscarrying her baby and suffering from blood poisoning, ultimately causing her death.
The woman’s death has caused the debate over legalizing abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation to flare. Prime Minister Enda Kenny has not commented on the situation yet, because he said he is awaiting findings from three investigations into Savita Halappanavar’s death.
CBS News reports that Savita is an Indian who has been living in Galway since 2008. she was 17 weeks along when she went to the hospital for blood poisoning. The woman’s case has served to highlight the strange legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems fan find themselves in in Ireland.
While the Catholic nation’s constitution officially bans abortion, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found that it should be legalized in certain situations, like when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Despite this, five governments since 1992 have refused to pass a law that would resolve the confusion, leaving hospitals in Ireland reluctant to terminate pregnancies unless there is a very obvious life-threatening circumstance.
Savita’s husband, Praveen, stated that doctors were able to determine within hours of her arriving at the hospital that she was miscarrying. Despite her repeated requests for an abortion to combat her own massive pain and fading health, doctors refused. Praveen stated:
“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, Savita asked: ‘If they could not save the baby, could they induce to end the pregnancy?’ The consultant said: ‘As long as there is a fetal heartbeat, we can’t do anything.’
CNN notes that her husband went on to say:
“Tuesday morning, came back and said, ‘Sorry, can’t help you. It’s a Catholic country. Can’t help you. It’s a Catholic team.’ So, Savita said that she was not a Catholic. She is Hindu, so why impose the law of the land on her?”
Her pleas did nothing, however, and she passed away a few days later. Savita’s death has lead to protests in India and in Ireland as lawmakers asked if the law should be changed. While the hospital has expressed its sympathy for Savita’s death, it issued a statement saying that “the facts of this tragic case have yet to be established.” They added:
“In the case of a sudden maternal death, these procedures are followed: notification of the death to the coroner, notification of the death to the HSE’s National Incident Management Team; the completion of a maternal death notification form. These procedures are being followed by Gallaway University Hospital.”
Abortion rights demonstrations have taken place in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and also in London outside the Irish Embassy following the woman’s death after being denied an abortion.