Thursday 22 February 2018

Minister 'shocked' by woman's death after UK abortion

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

A SENIOR government minister described as "extremely shocking" the death of a woman who travelled from Ireland to the UK for an abortion only to die in a taxi hours later.

Pro-choice activists have said the tragic death highlighted the real difficulties women face in travelling to England or Wales where abortion has been legalised.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the death had raised issues being dealt with in the abortion bill, which followed the tragic death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who had been seeking an abortion while suffering a miscarriage but later died in hospital.

Police in London are investigating the death of the 32-year-old mother-of-one – who was a foreign national resident in Ireland – from extensive internal blood loss in a taxi close to midnight on the same day as the procedure on January 21, 2012.

DIFFICULTIES

An investigation file has now been passed on to prosecutors after the woman died following the termination in a Marie Stopes clinic in west London. Marie Stopes International has declined to comment.

It is understood the woman and her husband contacted a maternity hospital in Ireland about an abortion after she encountered severe pain and difficulties during her first pregnancy due to fibroids in 2010. However, they were told it was not possible.

The man, who is now raising their three-year-old child, is understood to have been left frustrated by a lack of assistance from some Irish authorities.

It is understood she travelled at 20 weeks' gestation for the procedure as they had been trying to raise the money needed and reviewing their options. The couple had been in Ireland on student visas at the time.

A spokesman for the London Metropolitan Police said detectives were investigating the woman's unexplained death outside an address in Slough, with medics pronouncing her dead at the scene.

A post-mortem was undertaken at Wexham Hospital on January 23, 2012.

It found the cause of death was a heart attack caused by extensive internal blood loss.

Almost 4,000 women from Ireland travelled to England or Wales for an abortion last year, according to the latest available figures.

Ms Fitzgerald said it was important to learn the factors that led to this traumatic outcome.

"It's extremely important that those women realise aftercare is available for them when they return to this country," she said.

LEGISLATION

The minister said the death does raise the question of what were the presenting circumstances when she attended an Irish maternity hospital.

"Quite clearly . . . the legislation we have just passed and are concluding in the Senate was dealing with where a woman's life is at risk," she said.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said it highlighted the "real difficulties and traumas" women faced in travelling to the UK, with many discharging themselves early from the facilities.

Since October 2009, more than 900 women have contacted the Abortion Support Network, which provides financial aid to women seeking funds to travel for a termination.

"We have heard from women who were having difficulties trying to raise the money and that pushes them later into gestation," she said, adding some had to obtain visas to travel.

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) called for changes to the laws to allow women to be treated in Ireland.

However, the Pro Life Campaign's Cora Sherlock said official figures suggested abortion in the UK was relatively safe but there had been "several reports and incidents" that challenged this claim.

Irish Independent

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