Outrage and anger over the death of a 31-year-old dentist from India in a Galway hospital after the doctors there refused to abort her non-viable fetus has spread world wide.
The tragic case of Savita Halappanavar who died in a Galway hospital from sepsis has brought Ireland’s inaction on abortion law into a glaring international light.
The anger is most severely felt in her home country. On Thursday the India Times headline read, “Ireland murders pregnant Indian dentist”.
Anger has also been expressed in Ireland and around the world as people gathered for candlelit vigils, paying their respects to Savita. On Saturday another large gathering is planned in Dublin city centre.
Meanwhile, an Indian doctor in Ireland says euthanasia instead of abortion is practiced in Ireland. Dr CVR Prasad, an orthopedic surgeon in Ireland, told the Times of India that, “Termination is only postponed to after the birth. Women have to deliver a live baby, even if it is deformed, severely handicapped or with a congenital disorder. The baby may survive for a few years. It's kept in paediatric hospitals where demand-feed happens which means the baby is fed only if it cries or asks for food. Many babies die of starvation. This is passive euthanasia."
Dr Prasad stated Dr Savita's case clearly reflects what happens when religion influences medical practice.
Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister has promised that 20 years late, the Irish government will introduce guidelines on Irish law with regard to abortion.
Savita’s mother appeared on several Indian television stations saying, “In an attempt to save a four-month-old fetus they killed my… daughter. How is that fair you tell me?" She added, “How many more cases will there be?”
Her daughter was 17-weeks pregnant when she presented in hospital suffering a miscarriage. The Mayo-based dentist was told that her baby still had a heartbeat and therefore under current Irish law the doctors could not abort the fetus.
Two days later, when the fetus’ heart stopped, Savita was immediately operated on. She died in intensive care from blood poisoning.
Speaking in Ireland’s parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore confirmed that he and Enda Kenny would receive copies of the expert reports being carried out into Savita’s death by the Galway hospital and the Health Service Executive.
He said now was the right time to introduce guidelines on abortion to Ireland. This comes 20 years after the “X case”. This case involving a 14-year-old rape victim who was allowed to travel to the UK to terminate her pregnancy. In the case, the Supreme Court had ruled in favor and in so doing called on the government to legislate towards this. No government ever tackled the issue.
Gilmore said, “We all need to be clear on this issue. It is 20 years since the Supreme Court made its finding in the X case. It is time to bring legal clarity to the issue. It was to that end that we set up the expert group and we will now deal with the recommendations in the report made to us.”
Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party, stressed that for the past 25 years he has been campaigning for abortion reform.
He said, “Although we will not know the full details until the investigation has been completed, we have heard what Savita's husband said yesterday and as legislators we have a duty and responsibility to respond, act and deal with the issue."
He added, "I do not think we, as a country, should allow a situation where women's lives are put at risk in this way. We must deal with the issue and bring legal clarity to it."
The Indian ambassador to Ireland, Debashish Chakravarti, said his embassy was monitoring developments.
"We deeply regret that this lady died in the circumstances that she did and, of course, the death of any Indian national is a source of concern to us, I suppose," he said.
"Steps should be taken so that it doesn't happen to any other Indian citizen."