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Irish abortion laws are facing increasing backlash after a woman died last month because the hospital refused to end a deadly pregnancy.Savita Halappanavar, 31, was miscarrying her baby when she checked into University Hospital Galway last month.
The miscarriage process was causing Halappanavar severe pain and there was no chance of saving the baby but doctors told Halappanavar’s husband Ireland “is a Catholic country” and they wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy, the Irish Times reported Wednesday.
“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive,” Halappanvar’s husband told the times. “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 foetal heartbeat we can’t do anything’.”
Halappanvar’s body was eventually so weakened from the miscarriage that her kidneys, heart and liver stopped functioning and she died from septicaemia.
Abortion in Ireland was first banned in 1861 and a 1983 constitutional amendment granted an embryo full rights as an Irish citizen.
A woman who gets an abortion in Ireland could face life in prison.
Even so, the doctors’ refusal to abort Halappanavar’s dying foetus contradicts an Irish Supreme Court ruling from 1992 meant to protect the mother in such circumstances.
The ruling came after a 14-year-old girl became pregnant after she was raped by a neighbour.
The girl, who felt suicidal after the attack, tried to travel to Britain to have an abortion, but Attorney General Harry Whelehan tried to bar her from leaving the country, citing Ireland’s ban on abortions.
Ultimately the country’s Supreme Court stepped in and ruled a woman had a right to an abortion if there was a “real and substantial risk” to her life, including the risk of suicide.
Ireland’s new administration of Fine Gael and Labour is deeply split on the touchy subject.
Labour is in favour of relaxing the country’s all-encompassing abortion ban but Fine Gael remains divided on the issue, according to The Guardian.
The abortion rights debate has raged on in America as well.
A county prosecutor in Idaho filed criminal charges last year against an unmarried mother of three who bought medicine over the Internet to end what would have been her fourth pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood lost its fight in July against South Dakota laws requiring doctors to inform women they are exposing themselves to a greater risk of suicide when they get an abortion.
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