CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

National News

November 15, 2012

INTERNATIONAL: Ireland probes death of ill abortion-seeker

DUBLIN — The debate over legalizing abortion in Ireland flared Wednesday after the government confirmed that a woman in the midst of a miscarriage was refused an abortion and died in an Irish hospital after suffering from blood poisoning.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman who was 17 weeks pregnant. Her case highlighted the legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems can find themselves in predominantly Catholic Ireland.

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found the procedure should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.

The vast bulk of Irish women wanting abortions, an estimated 4,000 per year, simply travel next door to England, where abortion has been legal on demand since 1967. But that option is difficult, if not impossible, for women in failing health.

Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, said doctors at University Hospital Galway in western Ireland determined she was miscarrying within hours of her hospitalization for severe pain on Sunday, Oct. 21. He said over the next three days, doctors refused their requests for an abortion to combat her surging pain and fading health.

The hospital declined to say whether doctors believed Halappanavar’s blood poisoning could have been reversed had she received an abortion rather than waiting for the fetus to die on its own. In a statement, it described its own investigation into the death, and a parallel probe by the government’s Health Service Executive, as “standard practice” whenever a pregnant woman dies in a hospital. The Galway coroner also planned a public inquest.

“Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby,” he told The Irish Times in a telephone interview from Belgaum, southwest India. “When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning, 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 fetal heartbeat, we can’t do anything.’

“Again on Tuesday morning ... the consultant said 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,” Praveen Halappanavar said.

He said his wife vomited repeatedly and collapsed in a restroom that night, but doctors wouldn’t terminate the fetus because its heart was still beating.

The fetus died the following day and its remains were surgically removed. Within hours, Savita was placed under sedation in intensive care with blood poisoning and he was never able to speak with her again, her husband said. By Saturday, her heart, kidneys and liver had stopped working. She was pronounced dead early Sunday, Oct. 28.

The couple had settled in 2008 in Galway, where Praveen Halappanavar works as an engineer at the medical devices manufacturer Boston Scientific. His wife was qualified as a dentist but had taken time off for her pregnancy. Her parents in India had just visited them in Galway and left the day before her hospitalization.

Praveen Halappanavar said he took his wife’s remains back to India for a Hindu funeral and cremation Nov. 3. News of the circumstances that led to her death emerged Tuesday in Galway after the Indian community canceled the city’s annual Diwali festival. Savita Halappanavar had been one of the festival’s main organizers.

Opposition politicians appealed Wednesday for Kenny’s government to introduce legislation immediately to make the 1992 Supreme Court judgment part of statutory law. Barring any such bill, the only legislation defining the illegality of abortion in Ireland dates to 1861, when the entire island was part of the United Kingdom. That British law, still valid here due to Irish inaction on the matter, states it is a crime punishable by life imprisonment to “procure a miscarriage.”

In the 1992 case, a 14-year-old girl identified in court only as “X” successfully sued the government for the right to have an abortion in England. She had been raped by a neighbor. When her parents reported the crime to police, the attorney general ordered her not to travel abroad for an abortion, arguing this would violate Ireland’s constitution.

The Supreme Court ruled she should be permitted an abortion in Ireland, never mind England, because she was making credible threats to commit suicide if refused one. During the case, the girl reportedly suffered a miscarriage.

Since then, Irish governments twice have sought public approval to legalize abortion in life-threatening circumstances — but excluding a suicide threat as acceptable grounds. Both times voters rejected the proposed amendments.

Legal and political analysts broadly agree that no Irish government since 1992 has needed public approval to pass a law that backs the Supreme Court ruling. They say governments have been reluctant to be seen legalizing even limited access to abortion in a country that is more than 80 percent Catholic.

An abortions right group, Choice Ireland, said Halappanavar might not have died had any previous government legislated in line with the X judgment. Earlier this year, the government rejected an opposition bill to do this.

“Today, some 20 years after the X case, we find ourselves asking the same question: If a woman is pregnant, her life in jeopardy, can she even establish whether she has a right to a termination here in Ireland?” said Choice Ireland spokeswoman Stephanie Lord.

Coincidentally, the government said it received a long-awaited expert report Tuesday proposing possible changes to Irish abortion law shortly before news of Savita Halappanavar’s death broke. The government commissioned the report two years ago after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland’s inadequate access to abortions for life-threatening pregnancies violated European Union law.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, identifies Ireland as an unusually safe place to be pregnant. Its most recent report on global maternal death rates found that only three out of every 100,000 women die in childbirth in Ireland, compared with an average of 14 in Europe and North America, 190 in Asia and 590 in Africa.

1
Text Only
National News
  • Fort Hood (UPDATED) Officials: 4 dead, including gunman, at Fort Hood

    A gunman opened fire Wednesday at Fort Hood in an attack that left four dead, including the shooter, law enforcement officials said.
    One of the officials, citing official internal U.S. Justice Department updates, said 14 others were hurt. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information by name.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp file Hoffner Fired coach unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    The president of Minnesota State University-Mankato accused a football coach of looking at Internet porn on a work computer before firing him, an arbitrator has revealed. The official said the claim could not be supported, and the coach shouldn't have been fired.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • High School Stabbings 4 students seriously hurt in Pa. school stabbings

    A student armed with a knife went on a stabbing and slashing spree at a high school near Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, leaving as many as 20 people injured, including four students who suffered serious wounds, authorities said.

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • Obit Ultimate Warrior Former pro wrestler Ultimate Warrior dies at 54

    James Hellwig, better known as former pro wrestler The Ultimate Warrior, has died, the WWE said. He was 54.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_amazonfiretv.jpg Amazon introduces Fire TV to challenge Apple in living rooms

    Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is stepping up efforts to win over customers in their living rooms with a $99 TV box for watching digitally delivered shows and movies, challenging Apple's TV device.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Washington Mudslide Death toll in Washington mudslide rises to 30

    As medical examiners painstakingly piece together the identities and lives of the 30 people known killed when a mudslide wiped out a small Washington community, one mystery troubles them.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Fort Hood Fort Hood gunman sought mental health treatment

    An Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness was the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide, in an attack on the same Texas military base where more than a dozen people were slain in 2009, authorities said.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court Campaign Big donors may give even more under court’s ruling

    The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday erasing a long-standing limit on campaign donations will allow a small number of very wealthy donors to give even more than is currently the case, according to students of the complex campaign finance system, and could strengthen the establishment in both parties.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo