I am neither catholic nor Irish, Savita Halappanavar said before dying.

This news is disturbing, although there is no doubt that this is not the only case (in Ireland or elsewhere in the world), where a woman’s life was not seen as more important than the religious beliefs of some people in power.

I am neither catholic nor Irish, Savita Halappanavar said before dying.

“…the consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita said: ‘I am neither Irish nor Catholic’ , but they said there was nothing they could do,”

Praveen … said his wife vomited repeatedly and collapsed in a restroom that night, but doctors wouldn’t terminate the fetus because its heart was still beating.

The (17 week old) fetus died the following day and its remains were surgically removed. Within hours, Praveen said, his wife was placed under sedation in intensive care with systemic blood poisoning and he was never able to speak with her again. By Saturday, her heart, kidneys and liver had stopped working and she was pronounced dead early on October 28.” [Link shared by Sandhya]

Even if some people believe that abortion is wrong – all they can do is choose not to have abortions themselves (if they have uteri), what entitles some people to make decisions that clearly put other people’s lives at risk? Perhaps, the fact that most of them are sure that they are unlikely to be in a similar situation?

Her name was Savita Halappanavar. [Shakesville]

According to the World Health Organization, 26.1 million people seek unsafe abortions every year in the world because they do not have access to safe ones. 47,000 die from those unsafe abortions.

I have been unable to find a stat of how many people, like Savita Halappanavar, die because they are denied abortion as a medical option.

Related Posts:

How do women benefit from religion?


51 thoughts on “I am neither catholic nor Irish, Savita Halappanavar said before dying.

  1. Even machines are shut down and given rest if they are crashing. Apparently, a woman is not even given that much consideration. Aborting a fetus is against the law, but killing this woman is not?? The fetus died anyway( not saying that this would be ok if it lived). I dont think any religion preaches that. Is this legal or was it just a religious fanatic doctor who is responsible for this? As far as I know, even in places where abortion is illegal, it can be performed if there is a medical emergency.

    • As always “it depends” – abortion-law is nuanced, and there’s many laws that are somewhere between “always allowed” and “always forbidden”, for example: “allowed, but only in the first X weeks”, “allowed, but only if a independent commission allows it”, “forbidden, but allowed in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape.”, “forbidden, but allowed in cases where the mothers health is at risk.” and “forbidden, but allowed if the foetus is clearly severly sick and/or nonviable.”

      Very few people, even among those who are against a free choice of abortion, thinks that it makes any sense to require mother and child to *both* die, to avoid having to kill the foetus somewhat earlier and thus perhaps save the mothers life. (like in this case)

      It’s a shame. These people call themselves “pro life” – but the end result in this case was one needless death. (the death of the foetus was unavoidable anyway)

    • she was ‘in childbirth/miscarrying’ for about 7 days after it was confirmed there was ‘no hope’ for the embryo’s survival. She was denied an abortion because in Ireland – even after rape, incest or where the mother’s health is in danger – there are no abortions to women…only when the mother reaches the stage of her life being in critical danger….then they will grant one. The doctor’s – followed legal procedure so both died…but that is in ‘god’s hands. Apparently, when she was dying – the doctor was in the chapel praying. Jolly good for him. (there is no god otherwise I would hope he rots in hell).

  2. I’ll repeat here what I posted on FB.

    Horrifying. Isn’t this murder? The foetus had already miscarried. It wasn’t as if she was aborting it for any other reasons. Reason #453 for religion to stop poking its nose in people’s personal choices.

    This is what the TOI says- “Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as distinct from the health) of the mother.” How is it then, that the medical personnel could not follow this option to save her life when she was obviously sinking? Believe me, I’ve seen cases of septicaemia, and it is not difficult to detect an impending loss of life. Wasn’t it clear negligence on their part? Now they are hiding behind the pro-life law. And pray, how was this pro-life in any way? What about Savita’s right to life? The miscarriage was already in place. Septicaemia cannot set in in such a case without death of the foetus.

    As the post on Shakesville says, we need statistics of such deaths occuring due to a denial of medical help.

    I’m really so incensed over this!

  3. Terrible! I watched a documentary on this issue and how every man in Ireland knows at least one woman who has had an abortion except noone talks about it. A huge number of women go to the UK for an abortion and come back the same day. Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman has an account of this.

    • It’s well-documented that outlawing abortions does not lead to much less abortions.

      What it does is a) Make abortions more expensive as some will choose to travel abroad for one, which costs money. b) Make abortions more dangerous, as some “illegal” abortions will be performed under less than ideal medical conditions and c) Set the dangerous precedent that a person has the right to interfere with the medical care of another person over a religious issue. d) Hit young and/or poor women since these are sometimes unable to pay for the more expensive foreign option, thus you get an increase in unwanted teenage pregnancies with all the problems that follow from it.

  4. I read this here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2232676/Miscarrying-mother-dies-Irish-doctors-refuse-abortion-saying-This-Catholic-country.html and I’m still shaking.

    Why did this woman have to die in 2012 when we have all the medical technology and know how to save her. I too don’t understand why they wouldn’t abort when they knew that the fetus was being miscarried naturally anyway and to think that this poor woman suffered so much makes me just want to shake the person responsible for Savita’s murder.

    I agree with Sandhya above that religion and politics should be kept out of women’s wombs.

  5. The tragedy is that Savita’s story isn’t an isolated incident. :( Many women all over the the world die from complicated pregnancies where terminating the pregnancy could have saved them. These “pro lifers” wonder why we say they hate women, well you place more value on a non-viable fetus than that of an adult woman, then how is that not showing hatred towards women? In what way does that show that women are equally valued? I hope Praveen is able to get compensation, while I know that’s not a lot compared to the loss of his wife, it’s something. Those doctors should be tried for negligent manslaughter.

    • Agree absolutely. Savita died because it was more important that the foetus heart be allowed to pump for another few hours, instead of securing another ~50 years of life for the mother.

      • The foetus (sadly in this case it was a girl) could be a son – Catholics outlaw abortion because in possibly the most statistically unlikely event possible it might be the next JC (more likely Santa Claus). When my father was a child, 1950′s, raised a Catholic, he knew of a child’s mother who died in the same way – the embryo has a ‘rite of passage’ over the woman. The doctors were taught in all male medical schools to save the child regardless of the family’s requests (50pct chance of being male remember thus good canon fodder or priest material) .

  6. Was watching this in the news this morning. Deeply shocked…. and appalled at the horror of this. Why do we give moralistic connotations to abortion…. and neglect the medical aspect of it entirely (as in this case)?? This is a case of gross negligence…. :-|

    I hope atleast now with this incident the country will look at revoking its laws a bit. But then I agree with Sandhya – the law already states that abortion is permitted if there is a real and substantial risk to the life. What on earth were the docs and medical authorities thinking???!!!

    • ‘if there is a real and substantial risk to the life’ IE – THE WOMAN WILL PROBABLY DIE – IS TOO LATE ! This is what the doctor was waiting for!! You are saying forcing a woman to go so close to the life-death makes YOU feel better, sorry, you go through her pain and agony. She should have had the abortion the second she asked for it.

      • Also think about all the ‘pro-birth’ dodgy surgeries which cause paralysis etc to protect the foetus….quote It is estimated that 1,500 Irish women unknowingly and without consent underwent symphysiotomies {breaking and enlargement of the pelvis to allow childbirth} during childbirth between 1944—1992. Some survivors were left with severe lifelong after effects, including extreme pain, impaired mobility, incontinence, and depression.Then-Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, ruled out a review on 19 February 2010…

  7. Such a heart breaking news ….

    I could not understand any of it – neither the religious motive (How can it be abortion if the fetus had already died?) nor the scientific one (what were they waiting for?)


  8. This is what happens when fools rule a country and makes laws which keeps an imaginary entity called God over a human life.
    “Sorry Ma’am but we will let you die because God will get angry if we abort your baby to save you!”
    I thought India is the only country where we wait for people to die before we realize that we goofed up with laws and change them. It seems we have tough competition.

    • lol, buddy wake up. slavery, apartheid, no voting rights to women, colonization, ethnic cleansing were all laws at some point of time in the west of 20th century.

        • Which present day Indian law refuses care to a person in a hospital and lets people die on religious grounds?There has never been anything comparable to such laws in India thanks to BR Ambedkar.

        • Randomguy,

          I was not comparing the laws that govern the hospitals in India with this case.
          What I was saying that we wait for people to die before we make laws to prevent it in our country.
          There have been numerous instances that even faulty flyovers have been mended after multiple accidents and deaths on that stretch.
          There was an instant where a bus full of school children fell into the Wazirabad bridge in Delhi before everyone woke up to the fact that the bridge had a very fragile edge. It was a tragedy waiting to happen.
          The police in Delhi came down heavily on drunk driving after a series oaf deaths which included a pregnant woman and an auto driver eating ice cream.
          That is what I meant when I say that we wait for people to die and believe me I can go on and on with the example.

  9. This is legal murder carried out by Irish law. Irish women are smart enough to go to England for planned abortions, but what happens in cases like savita’s when a foreigner needs an abortion for medical reasons and it is too late to travel to an another country. They let her die. I hope all Indians living in Ireland think twice before planning to get get pregnant while staying in that country.

    I refuse to believe that this is the first time such an emergency has happened in that country. A western woman might get things done and everyone will close their eyes, however such inhumane laws usually are applied in full effect when it is do with helpless people like Indians.

    • Sheila Hodgers (died ’83) Irish housewife and mother of two children…. Because she was pregnant, treatment was withheld to protect her foetus due to the Catholic ethos of the hospital. The story is so disgusting from every angle. I hope women and men living in Ireland think about what religion has done to them.

      • BTW In August 1981, Hodgers detected a breast lump and was referred to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital where it was removed. Hodgers was prescribed a course of anti-cancer drugs and advised not to use the contraceptive pill as this could cause her cancer to return.
        One year later, Sheila Hodgers became pregnant. Since the anti-cancer drugs she was taking could harm the foetus, she was stopped from taking them. She began to miscarry and eventually asked for a Caesarian but they refused as it would damage the foetus. They also refused painkillers. The hospital had to abide by “The Bishop’s Contract”, a code of ethics drawn up with the Catholic Church.
        According to Brendan Hodgers: “I went to see Sheila one night and she was in absolute agony. She was literally screaming at this stage. I could hear her from the front door of the hospital and she was in a ward on the fourth floor. The couple again asked if an induction or Caesarian could be performed, and were again told the baby would not survive.
        On 17 March 1983, Hodgers gave birth in extreme agony to a baby girl who immediately died. Hodgers died two days later from cancer in her neck, spine, legs, liver and ribs.

  10. The so called Pro-life Church think it is better that both mother and foetus die rather than allowing the pregnant woman the right over her body.
    The same religion decorates armed men who kills adult lives with impunity in foreign soil in the name of war!

  11. I heard grannies talk about how foetuses and pregnant women lost their lives due to absence of timely access to medical help in the day so of yore. In those days,they just accepted it as their fate and God’s will.What about now ? We have best of technology.Efficient medical personnel.Tonnes of money being poured in to groundbreaking medical research every year.The end result? Not much progress.

  12. Terrible! sad and shaken. I shudder at the thought of pain and agony that Late Savita might have gone through. She could have lived longer if the doctors did what they had to – save her life. Knowing well that the foetus wouldn’t survive, I see no reason why the doctors refused to save her! Why and how does religion become more important than saving human life? Really sad! I hope Praveen gathers the strength to cope with the tragedy. I am saying this Kannada “Savita, nimma aatma shaantisali anta praarthisuthene” (Savitha, I pray that your soul rests in peace).

  13. It is so so so sad! A woman dies, not because she does not have access to good health care, but because archaic laws stopped the doctors from treating her. It makes me mad that even today, we try to control other people(esp women)’s choices, and lives with laws that make no sense at all. What makes it worse is that the foetus had already miscarried, and yet, they refused to help her, just because it still had a heart beat. What about the dying mother’s heart beat, I wonder? I can’t help feel that it boils down to the refusal to allow women control over their reproductive decisions, that such laws still exist.

    I was so mad at reading this, that I blogged about it too. Just hoping that this incident forces govts with such laws to make amendments.

    ‘Even if some people believe that abortion is wrong – all they can do is choose not to have abortions themselves (if they have uteri), what entitles some people to make decisions that clearly put other people’s lives at risk? ‘ – Absolutely! Hopefully, after this incident, at least some of the pro-lifers would understand the risks involved in trying to control other people’s choices with laws.

  14. Yesterday when I read this IHM, I was staring at the news with disbelief. Educated, medical professionals acting with such a lack of responsibility! I read somewhere that in Ireland for surgeons, keeping the mother alive is a higher priority than keeping a foetus alive. Then what made them go against their own rule book?

    How much longer are women supposed to let others make decisions for them? It is so so sad.

      • QUOTE 1983 amendment to the 1861 laws approved by REFERENDUM

        The State acknowledges the right to life OF THE UNBORN and, with due regard to the EQUAL right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate ‘that right’.

  15. Religion has no place in matters of the state. Once again, ignorant egotistical men are trying to control women’s bodies and sex lives. I wish men had the ability to bear children – the world would have been a better place then.

  16. There was no legal way whatsoever to get divorce in Ireland till around early 90′s. Also, condoms couldn’t be soled without prescription till mid 90′s as well.

    • I understand that women wanting planned abortions travel to UK. But what exactly happens to women in Irish hospitals who develop complications during pregnancy? Are they treated the same as Savita? If they are, then why is this death the first one we are hearing about in the media? If they are not, then why treat savita differently? You seem to know about Ireland, so care to explain?

  17. This is sad and infuriating. Letting partiarchal or religion dictate right to live or control women’s bodies.

    Progress is useless if we let religions like these take over.

  18. She was neither Irish nor catholic! We can’t even stop someone else’s religion from killing us, much less our own religion?! I can’t help thinking of her life cut tragically short. And of her parents that brought up and educated a daughter well. Pro-what again?!

  19. I can’t understand this debate at all, If you are pro- life then good for you don’t get an abortion, why would you care what someone else chooses???
    this should not even be up for vote. things that come up for vote and things that could potentially affect someone else. like if i drove drunk i could crash into your home and kill you.. if I choose to get an abortion how does that harm someone else????

  20. This is what happens when absolutes are allowed to dictate states. Absolutes in religion or ideology or politics. This case shows how a living beating, contributing to society, sentient woman is of less value than a fetus that is dying. This is not pro-life, it is a case of assuming that a rule has more worth and that a woman has no rights over her body. It is not the fetus they cared for, it would not have lived anyhow, rather a rigid interpretation of what is possibly not stated out clearly in their holy book either. Church( or any religious body) and state should be separate and no laws should be made on what women can do with their bodies.

  21. Very shameful and horrifying. That it has happened in this day and age shows that we are still living in a primitive state with archaic laws. It is pathetic that a woman is not allowed to make her own reproductive choices even in medical emergencies. And the net result is one death that could have been totally avoided. An irreparable loss indeed. Hope the furore and the backlash that has been ignited brings refreshing changes and is able to save many future savitas.

  22. Its just unbelievable.. Dont know what world we live in anymore!
    Maybe i am going a bit off track here, but i just cannot not help wonder, if the same amount of support and rage would be shown by the media and all the people here if she had been a single, unmarried woman who had to chosen to have a baby?

    • I doubt it.

      This might sound cynical, but in my experience, the media tends to latch on to stories like these, where a completely innocent victim, who did all the right things and made all the right, socially-sanctioned moves, is claimed by some kind of evil entity (in this case, anti-abortionist ideology).

      A single, unmarried woman who had chosen to have a baby would not qualify as ‘innocent’ for many Indians, and there would be a “well, that’s what happens if you’re a bad girl” aspect to it, even if no one actually admitted it in so many words.

  23. Shame on the doctors who watched her die! The baby had no chance to live, the mother did. Nobody can tell me this has anything to do with God or some higher power, this was human failure at its best and an outraging neglect of a woman who needed medical help. If it’s a doctor’s duty to save people’s lives, how do they justify this? With God’s will? Good luck with that worn-out phrase! Unbelievable that such archaic laws are still being applied today!

  24. Deeply shocked to hear this.
    I did not expect this in a European country.
    We hear about these things in Talibanised Afghanistan.
    I understand, if they come to power, women cannot acquire school and college education and neither can a female be attended to by a male doctor.

    When will we realize, that when a person is sick and dying, gender is not important.
    Saving life is.
    May the Irish Government see sense at least now and change its rules.

    PS: What happened to the serial thumbsdowner ? Not to be seen here in this post. Got tired , did he? Or did he finally realize the game was up and we could all see through him?
    I first thought it was a software glitch affecting WordPress till I read what Amit had to say about the technique. If by deleting cookies, you can thumb down a person several times, I suppose the same technique can be used to thumb up a comment? There are several great comments which deserve not one but a multiple thumbs up.

  25. I heard about this earlier. Since my first name is also Praveen, and since I’ve also been making the rounds at hospitals and outside OTs on account of my wife’s ill-health (she’s better now, thankfully), this did shake me up more than it normally would have. It felt deeply personal.

    As Eivind has pointed out, abortion law is complicated, and varies significantly across jurisdictions. That’s very unfortunate, because as in this case, it often serves as the basis for life-and-death decisions. Ireland allows abortions when the mother’s life is threatened, but as I understand it, there is no agreed-upon definition of a ‘life-threatening condition’, which often forces doctors to postpone the procedure until such conditions are self-evident. By then, it is often too late.

    I agree with Atheist Indian’s comment above. These people are not pro-life.

    Pro-life is merely a catchword, carefully crafted to market and make palatable a rigid and, in my opinion, deeply insensitive and regressive ideological foundation.

  26. This is so horrible. All that six has written. I thought the way Savita died was horrible enough- now this! When will people stop making rules that are so controlling and inhuman. These people who have got away with murder should be drawn and quartered in the medieval style. A real house of horrors.

    No wonder there are so many horror stories- movies, etc. made on this kind of background. Common people are more likely to believe in the presence of a devil instead of inhuman people carrying out such (un)godly duties.

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