Abortion refusal death: Hindu woman told Ireland ‘is a Catholic country’

| April 8, 2013

This article titled “Abortion refusal death: Hindu woman told Ireland ‘is a Catholic country'” was written by Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 8th April 2013 16.52 UTC

Savita Halappanavar and her husband Praveen

The husband of an Indian woman who died after being denied an abortion at an Irish hospital broke down in tears on Monday as he described how they pleaded that as Hindus they were not morally opposed to a termination that could have saved her life.

Praveen Halappanavar repeated his claim that a doctor, named at the inquest in Galway as Dr Katherine Astbury, told him that a termination could not be performed because “this is a Catholic country”.

His 31-year-old wife, Savita, died at University College hospital in Galway on 28 October last year, eight days after being admitted. She had been 17 weeks pregnant. Her case has become the focus of international debate and protests over Ireland’s strict laws on abortion.

Halappanavar told the inquest that he and his wife had been sent home from the hospital on Sunday 21 October, but returned a couple of hours later because she was in severe pain. He was later told that his wife was miscarrying.

“Savita was crying loudly,” Halappanavar told the court. He said a doctor told him: “‘You have to be brave’ – he said the baby won’t arrive. Both of us were shattered – we didn’t know what to do.”

The following Tuesday when they returned to the hospital, Halappanavar said, they both asked the medical team to perform a termination. In total the couple made three requests for an emergency termination, he said.

“Savita asked for a termination two times. Savita was in tears. She said she could not take it. The doctor did not come back that day,” Halappanavar said. “Savita asked a doctor when she could plan the next pregnancy. She was told she had to get well first. She wanted a termination; she wanted it before her parents arrived back in India and started telling people she was pregnant.”

Halapannavar said his wife then asked Astbury on the Tuesday for the termination. He claimed that the couple were told: “This is a Catholic country – we cannot terminate because the foetus is still alive.”

He said his wife then told the doctor that she was a Hindu and not an Irish citizen.

Declan Buckley, the senior barrister for the hospital and for the Republic’s Health Service Executive, said there were differences between what Halappanavar said happened and the hospital’s account.

Halappanavar claimed to the inquest that retrospective entries had been made in the medical notes.

The inquest has been told that the evidence of Astbury, a consultant obstetrician, will say there was only one discussion about a termination, on Tuesday 23 October.

Astbury says a termination was not warranted at that time as there was no threat to Mrs Halappanavar’s life.

The inquest, chaired by Dr Ciaran McLoughlin, continues.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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