After Tragedy, Irish Abortion Laws Come Under Fire | Michael Kelly | Catholic World Report
A young woman is dead, and some blame Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws—but many questions remain unanswered.
The death of a young pregnant woman has thrust the issue of abortion center-stage in Ireland, with pro-choice campaigners blaming the country’s ban on abortion for the woman’s death. However, even a quick perusal of the facts reveals a much more complex scenario. Pro-life advocates insist the tragic case is being used by those trying to overturn Ireland’s pro-life legislative framework. There have even been accusations that Catholic health-care ethics led to the death.
Savita Halappanavar—a native of India who moved to the west of Ireland some years ago—was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to the hospital on October 21, complaining about back pain. The 31-year-old was admitted to Galway University Hospital. According to her husband, doctors determined she was having a miscarriage. Little else is known officially, apart from the fact that a week later, Halappanavar had died from septicaemia, a blood infection.
The only account of the events leading up to her death come from Halappanavar’s distraught husband, who claims his wife asked for a termination of her pregnancy when it became clear that she was miscarrying. He insists that doctors refused because of the presence of a fetal heartbeat. His wife would be alive, Praveen Halappanavar says, if doctors had induced labor and ended the pregnancy as she requested. He told the Irish Times that his wife died because Ireland is a Catholic country and follows Catholic medical ethics.
Cue a torrent of anti-Catholic commentary on social media sites and from prominent journalists and commentators. Despite a lack of facts, the collective outcry was that this tragic incident had occurred because the hospital acted with a Catholic ethos. The country’s Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly, intervened to warn against prejudging the situation before the conclusion of two independent investigations surrounding the death.
“I am privy to certain facts but I am not privileged to share them,” Dr. Reilly said.
He said that the question of a Catholic ethos preventing or inhibiting medical personnel from carrying out proper medical treatment, as defined by the Medical Council, had been raised. “I have no evidence of that, but, again, I am not going to preclude what a coroner’s court will find, and I want to await that independent investigation that a coroner always undertakes,” Dr. Reilly told the Irish parliament, in response to questions about the incident.
While no one wants to intrude on Mr. Halappanavar’s obvious grief over the death of his wife, medical experts and bioethicists have been quick to express their view that Ireland’s ban on abortion had nothing to do with Mrs. Halappanavar’s death. They insist that guidelines from the Irish Medical Council are perfectly clear that pregnant women must be given all necessary medical treatment.