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Indian woman's death: Savita's parents slam Ireland's abortion law

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Nov 15, 2012 at 03:01pm IST

New Delhi: Reacting to the tragic death of an Indian woman dentist in Ireland after being refused abortion, the Ministry of External Affairs has said that the Indian embassy in Dublin is closely monitoring the developments. "We deeply regret the tragic death of Ms Halappanavar. Our Embassy in Dublin is following the matter closely. We understand that the Irish authorities have initiated two inquiries and we are awaiting the results," the MEA said.

Savita Halappanavar who had suffered a miscarriage died after being denied an abortion. The cause of her death was blood poisoning. Her parents in Belgaum have slammed Ireland's laws, saying that the government must do a rethink after this incident. "In order to save a 3-week child, they killed my 30 years old daughter," her mother said. Savita's father added, "This is because of the negligence of the Irish doctors. We are looking for the inquiry. Irish rules must be changed. Now I am requesting to change the law of Ireland."

ALSO SEE Indian woman's death: Debate over legalising abortion flares in Ireland

The National Commission for Women also said a change in Ireland's laws was needed. NCW Chairperson Mamta Sharma said, "I believe that they have some laws and rules. But if she is on the death bed, I think there should be humanity. Her parents should talk to the government of Ireland. If in our country such a thing happens, I will surely talk to the PM and CM. I think a change is needed." CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat demanded that the government of India must step in.

Catholic priest in India Father Dominic Emmanuel said that while the religion bans abortion, the mother in this case, should have been saved.

ALSO SEE Indian woman dentist dies after being refused abortion in Ireland

The debate over legalising abortion in Ireland flared on 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. Ireland 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.

(With additional information from the Associated Press)

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