Saturday 29 November 2014

Pressure to reform laws on abortion

Published 14/11/2012 | 09:19

Savita Halappanavar died after suffering a miscarriage and septicaemia

The Irish Government has come under heightened pressure to reform complex abortion laws after the death of a pregnant Indian woman who suffered a miscarriage.

Twenty years since a separate controversial abortion case split the country and two years since European judges called for clear direction on when a termination is legal, the death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway University Hospital has sparked a backlash.

Mrs Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist, was 17 weeks pregnant when she died on October 28 after suffering a miscarriage and septicaemia.

Her husband, Praveen, has alleged that doctors refused several requests for a medical termination because the foetus's heartbeat was present. Mr Halappanavar has claimed that following his late wife's appeals, they were told: "This is a Catholic country."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government will respond by the end of the month to an unconnected 2010 European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that called for reform of abortion law.

He said: "This is a tragic case where we have a woman who lost her life, her child is lost and her husband is bereaved. We have agreed to be in contact with the (European) court by November 30."

The current coalition is the seventh Irish government which has failed to legislate on the back of the 1992 X Case where the Supreme Court ruled a teenage girl who had been raped and became pregnant should have the right to travel for an abortion.

Two investigations into Mrs Halappanavar's death have been launched by the Galway-Roscommon University Hospitals Group and the country's health chiefs. A separate report from a 14-member expert group advising the Government on abortion in the wake of an ECHR ruling has landed on Health Minister Dr James Reilly's desk.

The HSE national incident management team confirmed it would interview Mr Halappanavar as part of its review of his wife's death. It also said in a statement that it will appoint an independent, external expert in obstetrics and gynaecology to the team.

Streets surrounding the Irish parliament were shut down and traffic ground to a halt during rush-hour as around 2,000 demonstrators staged a spontaneous protest. Elsewhere, supporters in Cork held a candlelight vigil at the city's Opera House in memory of Mrs Halappanavar.

Press Association

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