Saturday 20 January 2018

'Any criticisms of me would not be in good faith' - Ronan Mullen responds to backlash over Savita Halappanavar comments

Senator Rónán Mullen. Pic: Tom Burke
Senator Rónán Mullen. Pic: Tom Burke

Sasha Brady

Senator Ronan Mullen has responded to the criticism he received for claiming that Savita Halappanavar would not have died if there "had been abortion on demand".

The Independent senator came under fire for claiming that if there was "abortion on demand" Ms Halappanavar would never have been pregnant.

On Wednesday, Professor Peter Boylan, former Master of Holles Street Maternity Hospital, told the Oireachtas committee on abortion that Ms Halappanavar "died as a consequence of the Eighth Amendment".

Responding to Prof Boylan's comments, Senator Mullen told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke : "If there was abortion on demand, she wouldn't have been in the hospital because she wouldn't have been pregnant and she wouldn't have been having a miscarriage."

He had been invited on the show on Thursday alongside Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell to discuss the historic vote at the Oireachtas committee on abortion to move to recommend “not to retain the Eight Amendment in Full”.

His comments about the circumstances of Ms Halappanavar's were met with criticism from Ms O'Connell.

"To suggest that if there was abortion on demand that Savita Halappanavar would never had ended up at the stage where she was mid-way through her pregnancy is just very disrespectful to the late woman, to her husband who's still alive and to a couple that to the best of my knowledge were expecting a much-wanted child.

"The situation emerged where she asked for a termination because my belief is she knew what was coming down the road, she had medical experience."

Ms O'Connell also accused Senator Mullen of twisting the story to suit his "own preconceived notions”.

Amnesty Ireland's CEO, Colm O'Gorman said that his comments were a "disgusting slur" on Ms Halappanavar.

"He baldly stated that if 'abortion on demand' was available she wouldn’t have been pregnant. Such lazy, ignorant language is appalling," Mr O'Gorman wrote on Twitter.

He added that Senator Mullen's "shocking disregard for Savita's family is disgusting".

Senator Mullen later appeared on Newstalk on Thursday evening to clarify his comments: "I think any criticisms of me would not be in good faith and I would take any criticisms of me very seriously.

"I was not talking about Savita Halappanavar's situation, I was talking about the misuse of her case," he said.

He argued that “abortion proponents” were using her case to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Ms Halappanavar's died while she was suffering a miscarriage in Galway University Hospital in 2012.

She was pregnant with her first child when she admitted to hospital with pains.

She died a week later, on October 28 2012, after miscarrying and contracting E coli, leading to septic shock and multiple organ failure.

An inquest into her death was told she repeatedly asked for a termination but, because a foetal heartbeat was detected and her life did not appear to be in danger at that time, an abortion could not be carried out under the law.

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