A woman in Ireland denied a medically necessary abortion during an eventually fatal miscarriage last month has sparked off not only an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death but also the country’s stance on a procedure that is legal in most other Western countries.
Indian woman Savita Halappanavar, 31, sought an abortion in Ireland in the midst of a traumatic and ultimately deadly miscarriage during a wanted pregnancy. Halappanavar, a dentist, was 17 weeks pregnant when she was hospitalized on October 21 in Galway.
What happened next is heartbreaking illustration of the impact of Ireland’s abortion laws, where women who choose to terminate a pregnancy can safely (albeit expensively) travel to England to do so — but those who suffer a sudden and life-threatening complication can die even while in the hands of doctors.
The woman in Ireland denied an abortion was treated at University Hospital Galway where young widow Praveen Halappanavar explains that the heartbreak of the miscarriage was followed by the loss of his wife, a death he believes was preventable. Halappanavar explains that his wife sought an abortion in Ireland only to save her life, and that doctors refused to intercede because a fetal heartbeat was still detectable:
“It was her first baby, first pregnancy and you know she was on top of the world basically … She was so happy and everything was going well, she was so excited … On the Saturday night everything changed, she started experiencing back pain so we called into the hospital, the university hospital.”