The woman, a 31-year-old dentist named Savita Halappanavar, died at University Hospital Galway on Oct. 28.
Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she began to suffer from back pains last month, her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, explained in a second interview on Nov. 14 to Ireland’s RTE radio. She was quickly brought to hospital, where medical staff told her she was fully dilated, was leaking amniotic fluid and would miscarry her child, her husband said. He said that the hospital staff informed his wife that the miscarriage would only take a few hours. Three days later the fetus died inside Halappanavar’s womb, he said. During this period Halappanavar was in extreme pain and continually asked doctors to terminate the pregnancy, her husband said. Staff refused, according to Praveen Halappanavar, on the grounds that they were prohibited from performing abortions by law and that they could not remove the fetus until its heart had stopped beating. Praveen Halappanavar told the Irish Times that they also refused on the grounds that “this is a Catholic country.”
Following the procedure Halappanavar was quickly taken into an intensive care unit where her health began to deteriorate, her husband said. She died on October 28.
Abortion in Ireland is available only when the life of the mother is at risk. However, a lack of clarity in legislation has led to confusion within the Irish medical profession as to when a woman’s life is at risk—with the result that abortions are rarely, if ever, performed under any circumstances.
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