x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Protests over woman's death after being denied abortion

Savita Halappanavar, 31, died in hospital in a Galway, Ireland, last month after doctors allegedly refused her a termination because it was against the laws of the Catholic country.

NEW DELHI // The Indian government is following the investigations in Ireland into the death of an Indian woman who died after she was refused an abortion.

Savita Halappanavar, 31, died in hospital in a Galway, Ireland, last month after doctors allegedly refused her a termination because it was against the laws of the Catholic country.

"We deeply regret the tragic death of Ms Halappanavar. The death of an Indian national in such circumstances is a matter of concern," India's foreign ministry said yesterday. "Our embassy in Dublin is following the matter closely." A foreign ministry spokesman said New Delhi would examine the outcome of two investigations ordered into the death by the Irish government. "We understand that the Irish authorities have initiated two inquiries. We are awaiting the results."

Halappanavar's mother, A Mahadevi, lashed out at Ireland's abortion laws during a press conference yesterday. "In an attempt to save a 4-month-old fetus they killed my daughter. How is that fair you tell me?" she said. "How many more cases will there be? The rules should be changed as per the requirement of Hindus. We are Hindus, not Christians."

Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, described the death of Halappanavar, who was admitted to hospital when she was 17 weeks pregnant, as a "tragedy" late on Wednesday before saying the investigations were underway.

Abortion is illegal in Roman Catholic-dominated Ireland except when it is necessary to save the life of the mother. In India, abortions are only legal under certain circumstances, including rape, pregnancies of unmarried girls under the age of 18 and when the health of the mother or child is in jeopardy.

Halappanavar, a dentist, repeatedly asked staff at University Hospital Galway in western Ireland to terminate her pregnancy because she had severe back pain and was miscarrying, her family said.

But they replied she could not have an abortion because Ireland was a Catholic country and the foetus was still alive, her husband, Praveen, said.

"Savita said: 'I am neither Irish nor Catholic' but they said there was nothing they could do," Mr Halappanavar, 34, said. He is currently with family in Karnataka state.

She died of septicaemia, or blood poisoning, on October 28, a week after she was admitted. The foetus had been removed on October 23 after its heartbeat stopped.

Savita's death triggered numerous events around the country late on Wednesday, including a protest outside parliament in Dublin.

One of the people in attendance at Leinster House, Helena Kelly, 31, said she was appalled at hearing the news of the death.

"I would like to start my own family in a few years and to think things like this still happen absolutely terrifies me," she told AFP.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people took part in a candlelit vigil in Cork city.

People gathered outside the city's Opera House where dozens of candles spelling out Savita's name were laid on the ground.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse