pregnant woman who begged for an abortion in Ireland has died after doctors
refused, telling her: ‘This is a Catholic country.’ Savita Halappanavar, 31, pleaded for help after she began to miscarry her
baby 17 weeks into her first pregnancy. Her husband Praveen, 34, claims that although she was in agonising pain,
doctors refused to intervene for almost three days because her baby still had a
Mrs Halappanavar, a dentist, died in Galway University Hospital from
blood poisoning, four days after her dead baby was removed.
The case has caused a huge outcry in Ireland, where abortion is illegal. More
than 600 demonstrators marched on the Irish parliament, the Dail, last night in
Mr Halappanavar, an engineer, said he believed his wife, a Hindu, would have
survived if she had been given an abortion.
‘Savita was in agony,’ he added. ‘She was very upset, but she accepted
she was losing the baby.
When the consultant came on the ward rounds, Savita asked if they could not
save the baby, could they induce to end the pregnancy.
‘The consultant said, “As long as there is a foetal heartbeat we can’t do
He said that it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita said, “I
am neither Irish nor Catholic,” but they said there was nothing they could do.’
Mr Halappanavar told how the couple, who moved to Ireland from India in
2008, were ‘on top of the world’ about the baby.
However, on Sunday, October 21, his wife began suffering back pain and went to
Galway University Hospital.
An hour after being discharged, Mrs Halappanavar became convinced something was
wrong, and her husband drove her back to the hospital.
Following a second examination, the couple were told she was having a
miscarriage and that doctors would not be able to save the baby.
Mr Halappanavar said he was told the miscarriage would be over in a few hours
and that his wife would be able to go home afterwards.
But she began vomiting and shivering uncontrollably on Tuesday night, more than
48 hours after she first arriving at hospital, and her baby died the following
After an operation to remove the dead foetus, she was taken to intensive
care and died four days later on Sunday 28 October of organ failure.
A post-mortem examination found she had septicaemia, a form of blood poisoning,
and an E.coli infection.
Speaking from India, where he took his wife’s body to be cremated, Mr
Halappanavar said: ‘I am distraught, I have lost my soulmate.
‘Doctors refused the termination on the grounds that the foetal heartbeat was
still present and being a Catholic country it is not permitted.
A total of 4,149 Irish women came to England and Wales for abortions last
‘I tried to plead with the doctors that I am not Irish or a Catholic, so
please help and terminate her pregnancy.
‘I hope they change the law and make it more people-friendly [rather] than on
the basis of religious beliefs.
‘If it had happened in the UK or India, the thing would have been over in a few
Mr Halappanavar said that he would wait for the outcome of investigations
before deciding whether to take legal action against the hospital.
The Health Service Executive has begun an investigation and the hospital has
launched a review.
An inquest is also expected to be held. Abortion is outlawed in Ireland, even
in cases of rape and incest, or where the foetus has serious abnormalities and
is unlikely to survive.
Doctors are allowed to intervene only if they believe the mother’s life is at
There have been five referendums on the issue in the past 30 years.
The country’s constitution, which gives a foetus the same rights as a living
person, cannot be changed without a popular vote.
Clare Daly, an Irish MP who has campaigned against the abortion laws, said:
‘This is a situation we were told would never arise.
‘An unviable foetus – the woman was having a miscarriage – was given priority
over her life, who unfortunately and predictably developed septicaemia and
But Dr Ruth Cullen, of the Pro Life Campaign, said: ‘The guidelines are very
clear that all necessary treatment must be given to women in pregnancy.’
Irish premier Enda Kenny said the government would wait for the outcome of the
investigations, adding: ‘A child has been lost, a mother has died a husband is
bereaved. That is a tragedy.’
It comes just two months after he told Time magazine that he was personally
against abortion, adding: ‘I think that this issue is not of priority for