Several thousand people have gathered on Saturday in the Republic of Ireland to demand changes to the country’s abortion law, following the death of Savita Halappanavar.
The largest demonstrations took place in Dublin (photo, from dailymail.co.uk) where more than 4,000 people marched to the Irish parliament for a candle-lit vigil and held one minute silence. In Galway, where Mrs Halappanavar lived, more than 1,000 gathered for a vigil in Eyre Square, and some 60 members of the Indian community rallied outside the hospital and held two minutes of silent prayers.
Smaller demonstrations were also held in other cities.
On the 28th of October the 31-year-old Indian national was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child when she died at University Hospital in Galway.
Her family claims that she was repeatedly refused a termination during a miscarriage, which lead to her death.
Mrs Halappanavar was admitted to the hospital with severe back pain, before being told she was having a miscarriage.
According to her widower, Praveen Halappanavar, his wife had accepted that she was losing the baby and made several requests for a medical termination.
Mr Halappanavar claims that doctors refused to terminate the pregnancy because she was “in a Catholic country” and the foetus’s heartbeat was still present.
His wife died of septicaemia several days after entering the hospital, says an autopsy carried out two days after Mrs Halappanavar’s death.
Irish police confirmed that they are assisting the coroner regarding Mrs Halappanavar’s death, which is “standard procedure in the case of a sudden death”, said a police spokesperson.
And while hospital authorities have said that the facts of the case are not established yet, they are co-operating with two investigation into Mrs Halappanavar’s death : an internal investigation and an inquiry carried out by the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE).
Mrs Halappanavar’s parents have hit out at the Irish abortion laws. Her mother Akka Mahadevi told Indian TV : “In an attempt to save a four-month-old foetus they killed my 30-year-old daughter. How is that fair you tell me?”
“How many more cases will there be? The rules should be changed as per the requirement of Hindus. We are Hindus, not Christians”, she added.
The woman’s death was described as an outrage by left-wing TDs Clare Daly and Joan Collins who criticised the government for not adopting their X Case Bill earlier this year. The bill would have introduced new laws to allow an abortion in specific life-threatening situations.
“A woman has died because Galway University Hospital refused to perform an abortion needed to prevent serious risk to her life. This is a situation we were told would never arise”, said Ms Daly.
“An unviable foetus – the woman was having a miscarriage – was given priority over the woman’s life, who unfortunately and predictably developed septicaemia and died.”
Although Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is now under some pressure to legislate for abortion in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, he did not give any indication as to whether he would introduce new abortion laws.