• Thu, Nov 15 2012

Woman’s Death After Being Denied Life-Saving Abortion Ignites Debate

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist residing in Galway, Ireland, arrived at her University Hospital on October 21. At 17 weeks pregnant, she felt pain and needed to find out the cause, so she entrusted her health to her doctors. They informed her that she was miscarrying, but because it is a “Catholic country,” they refused to take out the fetus while it still had a heartbeat. Though her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, stated that they were “neither Irish nor Catholic,” the hospital staff insisted that there was nothing they would do for Ms. Halappanavar.

According to her husband:

“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive … Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. 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.’

“That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics. The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”

On October 28, after Halappanavar spent over 48 hours in agony, the foetal heartbeat stopped and the dead fetus was removed. She was taken to a high dependency unit and died from septicaemia and e. coli shortly thereafter. Since her cervix had remained fully open for such a long time, she was more prone to infection. Writer Michael Nugent explained it as “comparable to having an untreated open head wound.”

In Ireland, abortion is illegal under the constitution. However, if a woman’s life is in danger, she may be allowed to have one. Even so, this horrible event makes it obvious that actually obtaining one is a whole other story. When the law is foggy, speculation causes fear which leads to denying necessary healthcare: doctors may be afraid of repercussions to their careers or practices, health care providers won’t cover it, women fear that others will ostracize their choice (even if it saves their lives). Nobody who needs protection is protected.

I don’t actually understand how even those who claim that anti-abortion laws protect unborn fetuses could be opposed to abortion in this situation. Neither the child nor the woman was saved by the denial of an abortion–a result the hospital was aware of beforehand–so why was it necessary? Who did this protect?

As if we needed another reminder, this is why abortions need to be legal, safe and obtainable. What terrible thing would’ve resulted from allowing this woman to have an abortion, other than save her life? Until religious beliefs involving harsh regulations of reproductive rights can be knocked off the governmental table, women will continue dying in this exact same manner.

Photo: Irish Times.

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  • Lilac

    I don’t see it mentioned here but another article said she had e.coli.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      Oh goodness, I remember reading that, too, and I didn’t realize I didn’t include it. Thanks for mentioning it.

  • http://helloalle.com/ Alle

    I know that this has been the year of upsetting, horrific things in the women’s rights arena. I know there’s been women rape easy and protect the innocent babies from the heathen, abortion-loving sluts. But this story did it. I can’t take any more. I stayed awake last night just thinking about this woman who motherfucking DIED, and DIED IN AGONY, because of SOMEONE ELSE’S religious beliefs. It breaks my heart and makes me so angry, all at once. How is this pro-life. How is anything about this pro-life.

    • http://twitter.com/CeeCrowl Cee Crowl

      AND they didn’t get to save the baby like they so wanted. It really makes me sick.

  • Jaclyn

    This is so heartbreaking and makes me mistrustful of organized religion as a whole.
    I alone, have walked around in this body for 35 years and there is not a soul on this earth who knows what is best for my body but me. And, I don’t believe that the choices I make for my own health define my morals or my reputation, and I am tired of being made to feel as if it does.
    This woman lost her life for absolutely nothing. Maybe the neglectful hospital staff will have to answer for this one day. They failed to save the child and they killed a woman in the process. I wonder how that fits into their “beliefs”.

  • E

    Being Irish, this is *all* over the news here and there is a massive protest being held in the capital this Saturday.

    Many have pointed out that Ireland is still very ‘Third World’ in a lot of respects that other nations don’t really realise until something like this happens.

    I will be there Saturday. This BS needs to change immediately.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

      An Irish acquaintance of mine once told me that people, especially Americans, have this idea of Ireland being a lush landscape with tons of happy drunk people who work part-time and hang out the rest (basically, Portland but greener), but in reality, it’s very poverty-stricken and difficult to obtain quality medical care. I admittedly had no idea that that was true until she told me.

      I’m really glad Ireland has folks like you to help incite change.

  • meteor_echo

    All those doctors should be faced with criminal negligence and manslaughter. And they should sit in jail for the rest of their lives for it.