Dad hopes abortion law will be named for Savita

Dad hopes abortion law will be named for Savita

The memorial for Savita Halappanavar in Dublin. Reuters photo

"Dear Savita, I am sorry, our country denied you your right to life. I am so sorry your request went unanswered. " said one of the notes on Savita Halappanavar's mural in Dublin.

Over the weekend, many paid tributes to Savita Halappanavar. Her death in 2012 had sparked a new outrage against the oppressive abortion laws and she had become synonymous with abortion law in Ireland. Ireland voted for change last week and 66.36% voted yes to end the abortion law while 33.64% voted no. 

Savita Halappanavar, a dentist from Karnataka, was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child when she went to the University Hospital Galway for severe back pain. 

Savita was denied medical termination of pregnancy leading to her death due to sepsis.

Her death shocked people all over the world. The circumstances of her final days outraged the Irish public, leading to the launch of a movement. Andanappa Yalagi, Savita's father told DH that the referendum was a victory to prolonged movement on since last six years after Savita's death. ''Irish people have sought change on the law that imposes blanket ban on abortion and repeal it''.

"Ever since the death of Savitha, we have been demanding change in law and we are hopeful that the new law would be named after Savita,'' Yalagi said

Savita hailed from Belgavi and after her marriage in 2008, moved to Ireland with her husband Praveen.  Pregnant with her first child, she went to University Hospital Galway with severe back pain on 21 October 2012.

At the hospital, the medical staff concluded that a miscarriage was unavoidable although a foetal heartbeat could be heard. They intend to allow the pregnancy to end naturally.  After being told about the danger of infection following the rupture of the foetal membranes, the couple asked whether it was possible to medically induce the miscarriage. 

A consultant later recalled saying: “Under Irish law, if there’s no evidence of risk to the life of the mother, our hands are tied as long there’s a foetal heart.” No intervention took place. 

Savita and her husband Praveen were unaware of the anti-abortion law/ 8th amendment in Ireland. The couple then refuted and said that they were Hindus and Indians, but nothing changed. 

Eventually, medics diagnosed infection as a result of ruptured membranes but due to sepsis continued developing and she died of cardiac arrest caused by the sepsis on October 28, 2012.

Her death became the focal point for abortion rights in Ireland after Praveen Halappanavar told media that he and his wife had repeatedly asked for the pregnancy to be terminated after her admission to hospital, but they had been told that “this is a Catholic country”. 

In 2013 the Arulkumaran report was published. It distinguished three 'Key Causal Factors' for Savita's death: inadequate assessment and monitoring; failure to offer all management options to a patient; and non-adherence to clinical guidelines related to the prompt and effective management of sepsis. 

Abortion laws in Ireland

From 1983, the Eighth Amendment had forced women attempting to terminate pregnancies to go abroad for abortions. Many bear children conceived through rape or incest, take risky illegal measures at home.

After the controversial case of Savita, an anomaly was introduced to the amendment, authorising abortion in cases where there was a fatal risk to the mother. Following this provision, 26 abortions were performed in Ireland in 2014, 26 in 2015 and 25 in 2016. 

Nearly six years after Savita's death, Ireland has finally changed its rigid law against abortion which took Savita's life in 2012.  

After the historic repeal, a draft legislation will now be formalised to be tabled in the Dáil, Ireland’s parliament in autumn. 


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