Thousands rally in Ireland after woman denied abortion dies

DUBLIN Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:17pm EST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Thousands of people rallied outside Ireland's parliament on Wednesday to demand strict abortion rules be eased after a pregnant Indian woman repeatedly denied a termination died in an Irish hospital.

Savita Halappanavar, 31, admitted to University Hospital Galway in the west of Ireland last month, died of septicaemia a week after miscarrying 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

Her repeated requests for termination were rejected because of the presence of a fetal heartbeat, her husband told state broadcaster RTE.

Abortion remains an extremely divisive issue in Ireland, an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country which has some of the world's most restrictive laws on medical terminations.

Despite a dramatic waning of the influence of the Catholic Church, which dominated politics in the country until the 1980s, successive governments have been loath to legislate on an issue they fear could alienate conservative voters.

After several challenges, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that Ireland must clarify its position.

At least 2,000 people gathered for a candle-lit vigil to demand that the government legislate to close a legal loophole that leaves it unclear when the threat to the life of a pregnant woman provides legal justification for an abortion.

"My reaction was outrage. Shame that this happened in my country," protester Emer McNally, 33, and six months pregnant, said. "It's scary to think that medical treatment was denied."

The news of Halappanavar's death overnight sparked a wave of anger on Irish social media, with more than 50,000 people sharing the Irish Times's lead story on the issue on Wednesday.

The organizers of the Dublin protest said they expected a much larger crowd at a weekend demonstration and called on people to protest at Irish embassies around the world.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny, whose party has been criticized for delays in introducing legislation to define in what circumstances abortion should be allowed, offered condolences to the woman's family, but said he could not comment further until an investigation into the death.


In 1992, when challenged in the "X-case" involving a 14-year-old rape victim, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was permitted when the woman's life was at risk, including from suicide.

But an earlier constitutional amendment banning abortion remains in place, leaving medical professionals to navigate a legal minefield when treating pregnant women.

"What happened to this woman was nothing short of medieval," independent socialist member of parliament Clare Daly told the crowd. "We can't let political cowardice kill another woman."

The government says it has been waiting for the recommendations of an expert panel before fulfilling the European Court of Human Rights demand for clarification. The panel's report was delivered to the government on Tuesday.

In the absence of legislation, Irish women are forced to go abroad to terminate their pregnancies, an option not open to seriously ill mothers.

"It's very frightening. It makes me feel it's not a safe country in which to have a baby," said Sinead O'Brien a 41-year-old holding a placard saying 'Never Again'.

"There has been a groundswell of feeling all day. I think something has to change."

(Reporting by Lorraine Turner; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (3)
1942.bill wrote:
A real tragedy that this young woman dies. Also a tragedy that this case may well move the government, trying to hold on to it’s power, to declare open season on the unborn.

Nov 14, 2012 5:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
gregbrew56 wrote:
There’s “pro-life” for you.

You happy zealots?

Nov 14, 2012 5:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
DeanMJackson wrote:
If you believe life is not a gift from God, then one can kill at leisure anyone you want to, which is why Western civilization sees so many mass murders of neighbors we live with. We’ve forgotten that life is a precious gift from God, otherwise we’re just things that can be used for the pleasure of others.

We are callous towards each other because we have degenerated to murdering babies not even born yet, and all because we want to use each other for momentary sexual pleasure. We then grow contemptuous of those who use us for sexual gratification, but being trapped in the “Pleasure Philosophy” of life, we continue using others for sex.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the way Rome fell, so grow up, stop using others for your pleasure. Why not achieve pleasure from helping others? Helping yourself is not noble, and humans need to be noble otherwise we naturally degenerate into animals. Actually worse than animals. Now you know why Romans made a big deal about being “noble”. The Romans recognized that civilization can only be maintained via sublimation of the “animal passions”. What makes us civilized is our ability to reach beyond ourselves and deny passions that would destroy us. Remember, we were all one decision away from abortion ourselves!

Abortion is the ultimate anti-human act. So how does humanity gain from no humans being around?

Nov 14, 2012 10:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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