This week the news emerged that Savita Halappanavar has died in Ireland after contracting septicaemia and E coli after being denied an abortion on an unviable foetus.
Savita, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died of septicaemia a week after coming to the hospital with back pain on 21 October at University hospital in Galway. It later emerged that she was miscarrying.
After the 31-year-old dentist was told that she was miscarrying, her husband reportedly said that she had asked for a medical termination a number of times over a three day period, during which she was in severe pain. But he said these requests were denied because a foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told at one point: “This is a Catholic country.”
Medical staff removed the dead foetus days later after the heartbeat stopped but Savita died of septicaemia on 28 October.
This is a deeply upsetting case and has understandably brought the abortion debate in Ireland in to sharp relief. Savita’s husband Paveen has said that he will now campaign to get the abortion laws changed in Ireland “because it shouldn’t happen to anyone else”. Alongside this on the streets of Dublin there was palpable anger over the death. More than 10,000 people marched from the city’s Garden of Remembrance to the Irish parliament chanting “never again”, while a leftwing Dáil deputy Claire Daly said the Indian woman died due to “political cowardice” among Ireland’s establishment.
When the marchers reached Merrion Square at the back of the Irish parliament a minute silence was observed in memory of Savita.
In their interview, Savita’s parents said: “We want the government of India to put pressure on Ireland to change the law so that this cannot happen in the future.”
In Dublin thought, the demonstrators encountered some hostility from a small group of anti-abortion activists in O’Connell Street. One nun beside held up a placard opposing abortion. It read: “Must millions of innocent unborn infants be sacrificed to satan for the death of one woman?”
I hope that this will wake Ireland up and make them confront their confused, hypocritical and dangerous attitude towards abortion. As things stand, 3,000 women a year leave Ireland, mainly to the U.K, to get abortions. This was not an option for Savita and her death was as tragic as it was completely avoidable. My colleague, Irish MEP Paul Murphy, has organised an open letter to the Irish Prime Minister asking them to reconsider Ireland’s position on abortion.