New Delhi: The Irish cabinet is expected to discuss amendments to its anti-abortion law on Tuesday. This a day before the Irish Parliament discussed an expert committee's report into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar. The 31-year old died of complications on the October 28 after being denied a life-saving abortion following a miscarriage.
Savita's husband Praveen is now back in Dublin after performing her last rites in India. He is in discussions with members of the health services to set the terms of reference for an inquiry into Savita's death. Praveen has testified repeatedly and emphatically that Savita was denied an abortion because doctors cited existing laws that ban abortion. The deatg follows massive demonstrations all over Ireland over the last weekend.
Ireland's Supreme Court had in 1992 ruled that the abortion law must be relaxed in life-threatening cases, but five successive Irish governments have failed to amend it. Irish Health Minister James Reilly has said he will be bringing the report of the expert group to the Cabinet on Tuesday.
Speaking to Ireland's National Television & Radio Broadcaster RTE News yesterday, Reilly extended his sympathies to Halappanavar's family and said they would have input into the terms of reference for the inquiry into her death. "I have read the report and I need to study it
further. It's a hugely complex issue that has divided the country... and we're not going to solve it in a matter of weeks," he said.
It would be a "derogation of duty" not to deal with the issue, he said, adding that every woman had a right to have legal clarity regarding the treatment available to her. In his view, it could be early 2013 before a clear Government position is made.
Reilly's comments came a day after thousands of people attended candlelit vigils in Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Carlow and London to demand the Government legislate on abortion following the death of Savita. The Dublin march was headed by a giant banner stating "Never Again", adorned with images of 31-year-old Savita.
Organisers of the Dublin march said about 20,000 people had turned out, but a Garda (Irish police) spokeswoman said they estimated the figure to be between 10,000 and 12,000. "Twenty years is far too long; ignoring women's rights is wrong," was bellowed from a megaphone at the front of the procession as loud cries of 'Never Again' filled the air.
"The anger extends beyond Ireland," organiser Sinead Kennedy of the Irish Choice Network told the crowd as they huddled in the rain at the beginning of the march. "For more than 20 years we have seen political cowardice and inaction on this issue. The theme of this march is 'Never Again'. Never again will a woman be allowed to die," she said.
Earlier, members of the Indian community in Galway held another ceremony outside University Hospital Galway, where they lay white roses under a photograph of Halappanavar. Gardai said on Sunday afternoon they are assisting the Coroner in relation to Halappanavar's death. A Garda spokesman said this was "standard procedure in the case of a sudden death".
With additional information from PTI