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Holland reports: "This week, thousands of people gathered outside the Irish Parliament to protest the death of a young pregnant woman who died in a hospital from blood poisoning after doctors refused to perform a life-saving abortion."

Candles outside Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland, for Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman who was 17-weeks pregnant when she died of blood poisoning after suffering a miscarriage in Galway on Oct. 28. (photo: Peter Morrison/AP)
Candles outside Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland, for Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman who was 17-weeks pregnant when she died of blood poisoning after suffering a miscarriage in Galway on Oct. 28. (photo: Peter Morrison/AP)


When Pro-Life Means Death

By Kitty Holland, The Daily Beast

16 November 12

 

Did Irish abortion laws kill a young Indian woman?

his week, thousands of people gathered outside the Irish Parliament to protest the death of a young pregnant woman who died in a hospital from blood poisoning after doctors refused to perform a life-saving abortion, reportedly on the grounds that "this is a Catholic country."

Since the death of Savita Halappanavar on Oct. 28, outrage in Ireland and the rest of the world has steadily gathered force, and on Wednesday, demonstrators outside Parliament held candles as a minute's silence was observed to commemorate the 31-year-old. Some wept while others expressed anger. "I have a heartbeat too!" one sign read.

On Oct. 21, the Indian-born woman went to Galway University Hospital with a back pain. She was 17 weeks pregnant. At the hospital, doctors told her that she was miscarrying but that the ordeal would be over in a few hours. Instead, according to her husband Praveen, Savita went on to endure four days of "agony" during which time she asked repeatedly that the pregnancy be terminated.

Doctors, however, told her that because there was still a fetal heartbeat, Irish law would not permit the termination of the pregnancy, he said, and that, "this is a Catholic country." Savita protested, telling doctors, according to her husband, that "I am neither Irish nor Catholic." But was told again that there was nothing medical staff could do while the fetal heartbeat remained.

The next day, Savita became visibly ill, shivering and vomiting, and the fetal heartbeat stopped during the following afternoon. Doctors then removed the fetus and Savita was taken to intensive care where she deteriorated rapidly, suffering multi-organ failure a few days later, dying in the early hours of Oct. 28. She had contracted a form of blood poisoning as well as an E. coli infection, a pathologist found.

Speaking from Karnataka in southwest India, where he had taken the body of his young wife to be cremated, Praveen was adamant that if Savita's pleas for a termination had been listened to, she would have survived.

"How could they leave the womb open for days? It was all in their hands and they let her go," Praveen said. "How can you let a young woman go to save a baby who will die anyway? Savita could have had more babies."

The appalling events, first revealed in The Irish Times on Nov. 14, have led Irish news bulletins and have been reported across the world, catapulting the most divisive issue of Irish life—abortion—right to the top of the public and political agenda, exactly where the Irish government doesn't want it.

Ireland has among the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. It remains illegal under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, though referendums in 1983 and 1992 have allowed for protections for pregnant women seeking information about abortion services abroad and wishing to travel for abortions. A High Court ruling in 1992 also stated that abortion was legal in cases where there was a threat to the life of the mother—and not simply the health.

The fussy legal language complicates what is sometimes a life-or-death situation. In Savita's case, the fetus had a heartbeat, though it would clearly not live. At the same time, the mother's health was clearly at risk but the doctors ran the risk of prosecution if they intervened and terminated the pregnancy.

Coincidentally, a report commissioned last year about how the government should respond to a European Court of Human Rights ruling obliging Ireland to provide abortions in situations when a woman's life is threatened, was submitted the evening before news of Savita's death broke.

The larger of the two government parties, Fine Gael, has said it will not countenance legal abortion in Ireland. The smaller, the Labour Party, is avowedly pro-choice.

Solving what has become a political and, more significantly, a moral morass will be paramount for the government in the coming days. Both domestically and internationally, pressure has been mounting. Expressing its concern over the case, the Indian government has said it will closely monitor the two investigations into Savita's death, which were announced this week by the Irish authorities.

In solidarity with the Halappanavar family, a demonstration calling for improved legislation is planned to take place this weekend in Dublin. It is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations on the streets of the Irish capital in decades.

 

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+35 # DaveM 2012-11-16 23:19
The true face of "pro-life"....o nce you've been born, you're not worthy of consideration. Especially, of course, if you're a woman.
 
 
+19 # reiverpacific 2012-11-17 00:08
Any word from the his Holiness the yoke yet? Can't wait to hear that Papist pap.
This should be shouted from the rooftops in every country that is majority Catholic and stuffed down the throats of the "Pro Lifers" here.
But they'll rationalize it somehow unless the Irish people get it changed by force of legislation.
 
 
+28 # Regina 2012-11-17 00:58
Apparently Irish physicians do not take the Hippocratic Oath, to "First, do no harm." Are priests trained and licensed to practice medicine? This is an atrocity born of misogyny, arrogance, and God-playing beyond tolerance. And the woman was not a Catholic, the most reprehensible irony in that negligence. This is civilization???
 
 
+20 # fliteshare 2012-11-17 02:41
Religion outweighing science is called theocracy.
 
 
+14 # Citizen Mike 2012-11-17 07:58
I am sorry to see this woman die but this one death will serve the purpose of discrediting and tainting the entire anti-abortion movement worldwide! It will now be completely impossible for anyone to call themselves "pro-life" in this cause, that platform has been pulled out from under them by this dire event.
 
 
+12 # reiverpacific 2012-11-17 12:36
It's also a cautionary statement to make sure, if the US ever achieves Universal Health Care in the future, which the Republic of Ireland has, that the so-called "pro-life" crowd keeps their dirty paws off it.
 
 
-16 # The Voice of Reason 2012-11-17 14:09
You guys must be really excited. You finally have one case where the mother died when an abortion might have saved her life.

So ... how many abortions are performed worldwide that aren't medically necessary to save the mother's life? I've done some research, and several million seems to be the general number, but I'm not sure. If it is, that is a huge number of abortions on a daily basis. How many does it take to be a medical concern?

Can anyone offer a number, or is it top secret HIPPA stuff that plays no part in the abortion discussion? How convenient.
 
 
+10 # Selwick 2012-11-17 17:36
Why do you call yourself 'voice of reason'? Pro Life-rs are farther away from reason than is the earth from the sun. And behind the sun it is only dark.
 
 
+4 # readerz 2012-11-18 20:00
There are many cases where a woman dies during pregnancy due to complications, here in the U.S. For fetuses old enough to survive, do you know the number of C-sections in the U.S.? One quarter of live births. That means that one quarter of the women who become pregnant have some problem during delivery, and many of those are emergency C-sections pre-term where the life of the mother is in danger. I know a woman who had 8 pints of blood transfused during such an emergency: she also had a hysterectomy because her uterus was coming apart; luckily she survived and so did the very early pre-term baby, but that is because the hospital acted quickly and the fetus was at a stage that it could survive.

When the fetus isn't quite ready to survive outside the womb, in many states the law here is murky too, and there may also be delays that can endanger a woman's life, but in the U.S.A., the situation is often hushed up in the media. Have you noticed that the Petraeus affair, the Israeli-Gaza conflict, a lot of spin and non-news has completely driven away this story from major media... and this is an international story.

Please keep the "top secret stuff" out of this; totally ridiculous, because there are a lot more cases of deaths of women that are far less reported than you realize. How many die of domestic violence, lack of health care, etc.? You don't know, nor do you care.
 
 
+4 # reiverpacific 2012-11-18 21:59
Quoting The Voice of Reason:
You guys must be really excited. You finally have one case where the mother died when an abortion might have saved her life.

So ... how many abortions are performed worldwide that aren't medically necessary to save the mother's life? I've done some research, and several million seems to be the general number, but I'm not sure. If it is, that is a huge number of abortions on a daily basis. How many does it take to be a medical concern?

Can anyone offer a number, or is it top secret HIPPA stuff that plays no part in the abortion discussion? How convenient.

Are you a woman?
If not, butt out of rationalization for abortion discussions.
If yes, what moral high-ground are you taking for stopping a doctor from performing a life-saving procedure.
You probably would like to do away with the Hippocratic oath in favor of a hot-line to the Vatican, what?
Otherwise I'm not qualified to discuss this as I'm unlikely to ever be in such a position being a bloke (And certainly not a priest with the power of fear and guilt, fire and brimstone over others).
B.T.W., I'm a recovering Catholic.
 
 
+13 # Archie1954 2012-11-17 16:12
How truly demented are Irish government officials? Are they still living in the 16th century? A young woman was condemned to death by Irish stubborness and medical misfeasance. It is sad but it is also damned disgusting.
 
 
+7 # Blue Skies 2012-11-18 14:02
Who determines which life is more important? A real live woman who has an abortion for many and varied reasons which will affect her life and the child's life if it is unwanted and uncared for or aborting a yet unborn fetus so the woman can go on to live a normal life and have multiple children who are planned, wanted and cared for. In the case of this Irish fiasco two people died. The mother who was literally murdered because of a religious belief and the baby who would have died anyway.
We must stop living in the middle ages and stop believing in a religion where pro-life means death
 
 
+3 # readerz 2012-11-18 20:02
I agree: I am offended that people have hijacked a religion that respected women, healed women, but now wants to kill women. I can believe in the Scriptural religion, but not the administrative organization that pretends to have a patent on it.
 
 
+4 # AMLLLLL 2012-11-18 22:55
Blue, you've hit on a great point. And when does a 'life' begin? The Catholic Church used to hold that it begins around the 3rd trimester, but has changed their position since women have had the option of contraception and termination of a pregnancy. Thousand bucks says no one can tell me when the soul enters the fetus. It will always be a belief, an opinion, an article of faith, but not a fact. I still maintain that an egg is not a chicken. The government (and in my opinion religion too) has no business interfering with a woman's right to choose.
 

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