Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Savita died because of Eighth Amendment' - claims leading doctor

Peter Boylan

Shona Murray

Savita Halappanavar "died as a consequence of the Eighth Amendment", according to the former Master of Holles Street Maternity Hospital.

Professor Peter Boylan was speaking before the Oireachtas committee on abortion, which last night voted to recommend not to retain the Eighth Amendment in full.

The Eighth Amendment has caused "grave harm to women, including death", Prof Boylan told committee members in the run-up to the vote.

The fifth anniversary of the death of Mrs Halappanavar, who died of sepsis while pregnant at Galway University Hospital, is next week.

"She died as a consequence of the Eighth Amendment," Prof Boylan told the committee following questions from Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Mr McGrath went on to argue there are "lots of differing opinions" about the cause of death.

Dr Peter Boylan
Dr Peter Boylan

Prof Boylan said Ireland could look at other EU countries as possible legal models when shaping any new abortion legislation, not just the UK, where most Irish women have an abortion.

He said 99pc of women in the EU had access to termination in the first trimester.

Praveen and Savita Halappanavar on their wedding day (Reuters)
Praveen and Savita Halappanavar on their wedding day (Reuters)

He added that Ireland would have an "epidemic of illegal abortions" and a "massive increase" in maternal mortality if women were unable to access abortion in the UK.

Also present at the committee was Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, president-elect of the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, who also investigated the death of Mrs Halappanavar.

Savita Halappanavar's parents
Savita Halappanavar's parents

Prof Arulkumaran said abortions could be life-saving in certain conditions.

He spoke of the Irish legislation, where a clear and present threat to a woman's life must exist before an abortion can occur.

He said this created a serious ongoing risk as "some cases accelerate steeply and you miss the boat".

Last night, a vote was taken in public session, proposed by Sinn Féin and seconded by Fianna Fáil, "not to retain the Eighth Amendment in full".

In the vote, 15 members voted in favour, three against - Senator Rónán Mullen, Independent TD Mr McGrath and Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick - and two Fianna Fáil TDs abstained, James Browne and Anne Rabbitte.

Senator Mullen called the vote and the committee "a disgrace" with no regard for the human rights of the unborn.

Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell said it was "a great moment in Ireland" and the democratic nature of the process showed the people of Ireland the value of politics. "It's not just about the lad who fixed the road - this is human rights, women's rights," she said.

The committee is responsible for recommending what question will go before the people in a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in May or June next year.

Members are now considering six options as alternatives to the Eighth Amendment, among them deleting the article entirely from the Constitution.

Irish Independent

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