Indian Woman’s Memory Takes Center Stage in Ireland’s Abortion Campaign

The request of dentist Savita Halappanavar to terminate her pregnancy was denied in Ireland, leading to her death in 2012.


Almost six years after her death, Indian-origin dentist Savita Halappanavar continues to be at the center of debate over Ireland’s abortion laws. As the country gears up for a referendum on whether or not to retain the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which grants a mother and unborn child an equal right to life, Halappanavar’s case looms large in public minds. She died in 2012 after her request for termination of her pregnancy was denied in Ireland.

The referendum over the amendment is scheduled to take place on May 25.

Ahead of the vote, several women have been coming out to say that they faced the same circumstances as Halappanavar, Irish Times reported. “My circumstances were the same as those of Savita Halappanavar, the young woman who had died at University Hospital Galway in 2012,” a woman wrote to the publication to share her story.

“Every week Irish women travel to Liverpool, exported because Irish hospitals are prohibited by law from looking after them. Please vote Yes to remove the Eighth Amendment and stop our pain,” she said, according to the report.

Many took to the social media to remember Halappanavar.

“If she had the termination when asked for it, the sepsis would not arise,” one Twitter user posted.

Many rooted for repealing the ban, saying, “Yes for Savita,” on Twitter.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Irish Times, 42 per cent respondents said that they would vote “No” to keep the ban on abortion that currently exists in the constitution, while 58 per cent said they would vote “Yes” in favor of removing the 8th Amendment.

Halappanavar’s father Andanappa Yalagi last month urged the people of Ireland to vote “Yes” to remove the ban on abortion in Ireland. “I will watch this vote. I hope the people of Ireland will vote yes for abortion, for the ladies of Ireland and the people of Ireland. My daughter, she lost her life because of this abortion law, because of the diagnosis, and she could not have an abortion. She died,” Yalagi said, the report added.

Halappanavar did not simply die because she contracted sepsis, but due to the result of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws, Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, author of an independent report on Halappanavar’s death, said in October last year, the Irish Examiner reported.

“It was very clear the things holding the hands of physicians was the legal issue. Anybody, any junior doctor, would have said this is a sepsis condition, we must terminate,” Arulkumaran said. “If she had a termination in the first days as requested, she would not have had sepsis. If she had the termination when asked for it, the sepsis would not arise,” he added.

People paid a tribute to Savita Halappanavar in October last year, saying that they will never forget what happened to her. Abortion Rights Campaign, an organization campaigning for legalizing abortion in Ireland, posted updates about the memorial on its Facebook page.

The 31-year-old Halappanavar died on Oct. 28, 2012 when she was 17 weeks pregnant. This was a week after she came to hospital complaining of severe back pain. Doctors found that she was miscarrying, but her request for terminating the pregnancy was turned down since doctors could detect the fetus’ heartbeat.

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