Savita Halappanavar's Death Fuels Abortion Debate in Ireland

Thursday, 15 Nov 2012 12:15 PM

By Michael Mullins

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Following the death of Savita Halappanavar, who was refused an abortion in Ireland, pro-choice activists and women’s groups are up in arms over the Catholic nation’s anti-abortion laws.

Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian immigrant, was admitted to Galway University Hospital in late October complaining of back pains. Examining physicians informed her that she was having a miscarriage and asked her  and her husband to allow the miscarriage to take its course before removing the body of the 4-month-old fetus.

According to The Guardian, it took three days for the fetus to die. Despite attempts by the hospital to improve Halappanavar’s health, she died within a week of septicaemia, a blood infection that caused her kidneys and liver to stop working.

Vigils were held across Ireland Thursday night in Galway, Cork, Limerick and Dublin as well as outside the Irish Embassy where some 2,000-plus protestors gathered to demand reform to Irish anti-abortion laws.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny described Halappanavar’s death as a “tragedy.”

According to doctors at the hospital, the abortion was not performed when requested by Halappanavar’s husband during the three day miscarriage because under Irish law abortion is prohibited while the baby’s heart is  still beating, which was the case in Halappanavar's situation.

Abortion is only legal in Ireland when a mother’s life is at risk, not necessarily if her health is at risk.

According to Dr. Muiris Houston, writing in the Irish Times: “A death as a result of an infection during a miscarriage is a rare event in the developed world. Referred to as a septic abortion or miscarriage, most cases are due to infection with bacteria such as E.coli or streptococci . . . Infection can then spread to the woman’s bloodstream, leading to shock and the onset of DIC, which occurs when the normal functioning of blood cells is progressively impaired, leading to multi-organ failure.”

A hospital spokesman expressed the facility’s sincere sympathy to Halappanavar’s family and confirmed that it is conducting an investigation into the matter and will cooperate fully with any additional investigations being conducted by other parties.

According to Irish head of state, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, two investigations into the matter are currently underway.

According to Fox News, each year an estimated 4,000 Irish woman travel to England, where abortion laws are more lax, to have an abortion.

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