Catholic Church

Irish probe death of Indian woman refused abortion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 2:57am

Irish authorities yesterday investigated the death of a woman who was refused a termination after doctors told her it was a Catholic country, in a case that has revived debate about abortion laws.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny told lawmakers he was awaiting the results of two reviews of the death of Savita Halappanavar, who is originally from India, at University Hospital in Galway.

Abortion is illegal in Roman Catholic-dominated Ireland except when it is necessary to save the life of the mother.

Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, repeatedly asked the hospital to terminate her pregnancy because she had severe back pain and was miscarrying, her family said.

But staff had told the 31-year-old dentist, a Hindu, that she could not have an abortion because Ireland was a Catholic country and the foetus was still alive, her husband Praveen told the Irish Times.

"The consultant said, 'As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can't do anything," he told the newspaper.

"The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country.

"Savita said: 'I am neither Irish nor Catholic' but they said there was nothing they could do."

She died of septicaemia, or blood poisoning, on October 28, a week after she was admitted. The foetus had been removed on October 23 after its heartbeat stopped.

The hospital said in a statement that it had ordered a review into the woman's death but it had not yet started as it was waiting to consult with the Halappanavar family, who are in India for her funeral.

Ireland's abortion laws have been the subject of debate for years.

Savita Halappanavar's death comes just weeks after the first ever private abortion clinic opened in the British province of Northern Ireland despite fierce opposition.