Death of Savita Halappanavar

Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 00:00

A chara, – Those using the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar as a reason to legalise abortion in Ireland should be held to account for this shameless and disgusting behaviour.

On the face of it, this maternal death may have absolutely nothing to do with the issue of abortion, and everything to do with implementing medical practice as it currently stands.

Instead of those in the community holding this woman up as a reason to implement the intentional taking of a life through abortion, we should be mourning her death, and waiting for the outcome of the investigations. – Yours, etc,


Kate Elizabeth Avenue,


Victoria, Australia.

Sir, – With all the Government’s support for The Gathering, I’m sure that I speak for many from the Diaspora in saying that the death of Savita Halappanavar reminds us all too well of the reasons we left Ireland. – Yours, etc,



Berlin, Germany.

Sir, – I feel very sad for Savita and Praveen Halappanavar. I also feel sad for all those doctors who, day in, day out, have to deal with critical illness in pregnant women.

Theirs is a heavy burden, made all the heavier by the knowledge they are held in a legislative limbo that threatens their personal liberty and their livelihood.

The only legislation covering this difficult area is the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which provides for a minimum sentence of two years hard labour, up to penal servitude for life, for anyone who intervenes with intent to cause a miscarriage.

Medical Council guidelines use the words “rare” and “exceptional” to describe circumstances where it may be necessary to terminate a pregnancy. The Supreme Court ruled 20 years ago that abortion was lawful where there was a real and substantial threat to the life, as opposed to the health, of the mother. The Constitution acknowledges to right to life of the unborn “with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”. It is that grey area which poses both a challenge to doctors and a threat to them and their patients.

In the absence of modern legislation, clarifying the circumstances in which termination of pregnancy is lawful, as opposed to potentially criminal, there remains a real risk to the liberty, or livelihood, of a doctor who terminates a pregnancy for any reason in this State. The risk is that another person, whether a colleague, or a member of the public who comes to know of the matter, may report it to An Garda Síochána, or to the Medical Council. The inevitable outcome is a rearguard, defensive position for the doctor.

It is such uncertainty that is likely to lead to hesitation in taking an irrevocable step in the care of a pregnant woman, such as may create dangerous delays and potentially lead to tragic consequences. The Government has already been found in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, by failing to ensure that a woman can secure a legally authoritative determination of what her rights are in her individual situation. It is 20 years since the X case and two years since the European Court of Human Rights judgment, although the relevant application was made five years before that.

The only way in which this situation can be improved, for the benefit of mothers and their other children, and to protect their doctors, allowing those doctors to exercise their clinical knowledge without fear, is for the legislature to accept the responsibility they have sought in elections. The people of Ireland have spoken several times, to indicate that they do not believe abortion is evil in every circumstance. How many women must die due to fear and ignorance, before our legislators will be brave and accountable? – Yours, etc,


Clinical Professor,

Emergency Medicine,

Trinity College Dublin,

Clinical Director/ Consultant

Dept of Emergency Medicine St James’s Hospital,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – I, like the rest of the country, was truly horrified and saddened to read the story of Savita Halappanavar and my deepest sympathy goes to her husband, family and friends.

I would hold what would traditionally be considered “pro-life” views on the practice of abortion in Ireland. However, I understand and accept that in certain circumstances an abortion may and should be carried out legally where the life of the mother is at risk. I, perhaps ignorantly, understood this to be the law of the land as it stood.

I would ask that “pro-choice” organisations not hijack the public events that are to be held in Savita Halappanavar’s memory, in order to allow people like me publicly express my distress towards Ms Halappanavar’s death.

I want to show my sympathy, but I will never walk behind a pro-choice banner. This case has absolutely nothing to do with the “pro-choice” agenda for the full legalisation of abortion in Ireland. Now is not the time for that debate. – Yours, etc,


Mount Anville Wood,

Mount Anville,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – For quite a while now, The Irish Times has been on a mission to have abortion introduced in Ireland, but the manner in which you have gone about it in recent days has represented some of the most cheap, sensationalist and shoddy journalism I have ever seen from the paper. In particular, the repetition of the unverified reference to a “Catholic country”, six times between Thursday’s and Wednesday’s front pages, is a shockingly blatant attempt to boil up anti-Catholic emotions and convey an impression that Ireland is a priest-ridden backwater where the church is strangling women’s rights. I’m not even a practising Catholic and I find it offensive.

The only reason we have not introduced abortion in Ireland is because the people, and the politicians we elect to represent us, overwhelmingly oppose it. No matter how many times your paper incorrectly reports as facts either the suggestion that legislating for the X case would be limited abortion, or that the European Court of Human Rights requires such legislation, it will still not be true. Legislating to allow abortion on the threat of suicide would of course be abortion on demand, and we would quickly end up like Britain or America where abortion is simply another contraceptive choice.

The medical position here for some time now has been that all efforts to save the mother’s life should, of course, be carried out, even if this means losing the baby. If that did not happen in this horribly tragic case then that absolutely needs to be remedied, and if this incident helps to bring clarity to that position, then that will be welcome. But rushing a decision to bring in abortion on demand on a wave of emotion following the needless death of a young woman is no way to honour her memory. – Is mise,


Travers Hill,


Co Roscommon.

Sir, – We were repeatedly told during the so-called abortion referendums that this would never happen: ie a woman would never be allowed to die in order to save a foetus, viable or not. Well now it has happened, as reported first by The Irish Times (Front page, November 14th).

The members of cabinet of all governments over the last 20 years should be ashamed of themselves. How many women need to die before these spineless TDs legislate? Surely even the Government can see the irony of what has happened in the week that Ireland has become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council! Legislate or resign. – Yours, etc,




Clanbrassil Terrace,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – In the news headlines worldwide again for all the wrong reasons. The shame of it all. – Yours, etc,


Waterloo Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Might I propose that while reaching out to Diaspora to visit Ireland for “The Gathering” in 2013 a travel warning be included? Perhaps: “if pregnant, travel to Ireland at your own risk”. – Yours, etc,


Rockbarton Park,



Sir, – If Savita Halappanavar had not died, would the story of a woman being left in agony for days to miscarry a live but not viable foetus have made headlines at all?

It’s barbaric and shameful that Irish law requires women whose lives are not in danger to be treated in this way!  – Yours, etc,


Japonica Close,




Sir, – In the past month it emerged that Government-funded crisis pregnancy agencies had given advice to women that would potentially endanger their lives; last year an Irish woman almost died following a botched abortion in Britain. Neither of these stories resulted in a public outcry, garnered widespread media attention, or received condemnations from abortion campaigners.

I cannot therefore help but think that the tragic death of Salvita Halappanavar, whose life we cannot say would have been saved by abortion, is now being manipulated by abortion campaigners around the country and in the media to further their agenda. If they were genuinely concerned for the well-being of all women, their efforts would necessarily go into acknowledging and exposing the egregious negligence of an abortion industry directly responsible for the deaths of countless women in botched abortions around the world every year. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – In September, a major medical conference in Ireland concluded that abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a pregnant mother.

One hundred and forty Irish medical professionals took part in the International Symposium on Excellence in Maternal Healthcare. They produced the Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare, which states: “As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman. We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child. We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”

Legal clarity is urgently required as to what the “fundamental difference” between “necessary medical treatments” and “abortion” is. The law must not allow personal interpretations by medical personnel of the paramount significance of a foetal heartbeat where miscarriage is inevitable to “trump” the right to life-saving medical intervention when the mother’s life could be endangered. – Yours, etc,




Co Wexford.

Sir, – The death of Ms Halappanavar has reverberated across the world. In London we field acute questions that are as unanswerable as they are humiliating.

We, away from home, can usually explain the woes and wiles of the Oireachtas’s mishaps and blunders with a half wink and a casual self-deprecating jest. However, this is a tragedy too far and I am tired from making excuses.

To do so would be an insult to the Irish people, who have demanded effective action for the better part of a score of years, and the memory of Ms Halappanavar; this memory and her image must serve as inspiration for the Zeitgeist of now. I am proudest of those who continue to demand certainty in this matter and have stationed themselves in vigil on Kildare Street and across the nation. The Diaspora’s thoughts are with Ms Halappanavar’s family and with you. – Yours, etc,


Artichoke Hill,