Friends of Savita condemn ‘rude, ridiculous’ Rónán Mullen claim

‘If there was abortion on demand... she wouldn’t have been pregnant,’ said Senator

Friends in Galway of Savita Halappanavar have described comments by Senator Ronan Mullen on the circumstances in which she died as "very sad", "rude" and "ridiculous".

Sreeni Rao, a close friend of the couple during their time in Ireland, said he could not understand the comments.

Mr Mullen was asked on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke on Thursday whether Ms Halappanavar would still be alive if she was given a termination when she asked for one.

The Senator replied: “If there was abortion on demand she wouldn’t have been in the hospital because she wouldn’t have been pregnant and she wouldn’t have been having a miscarriage.”


Mr Rao said: "Did he mean Savita did not want a girl? She liked very much girls. She was giving dancing lessons for four or five years and she liked more giving girls' lessons."

Mr Rao, who lives with his family in the Doughiska area of Galway, said Ms Halappanavar and her husband had chosen a girl's name, Prasa, in the event they would have a daughter.

“What this man [Senator Mullen] said is so rude. It’s very sad for Savita and for our community. It’s not good and it’s not right.”

Dr Chalikondra Prasad, a family friend who lives in Spiddal, Co Galway, described the comments as “ridiculous”, “distasteful and offensive to Savita’s family”, adding the miscarried baby had been “very wanted”.

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell criticised Mr Mullen’s comments and said they were hugely disrespectful to Ms Halappanavar and her family.

Mr Mullen and Ms O’Connell both sit on the Oireachtas committee examining the Eighth Amendment.

‘Bad faith’

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Mullen said he was not talking about Ms Halappanavar's personal circumstances and "never would" do so.

He said: “To suggest I was is bad faith.”

During the radio programme, Sean O’Rourke asked Mr Mullen about evidence given to the committee by Prof Peter Boylan, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital and chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland, that “if Savita Halappanavar had been given a termination when she asked for it she would be alive today”.

Mr Mullen replied: “Yes, if there was abortion on demand she wouldn’t have been in the hospital because she wouldn’t have been pregnant and she wouldn’t have been having a miscarriage.

"But, you know, a slew of obstetricians and a consultant in emergency medicine - [STEPHEN]Cusack - wrote to The Irish Times and said that they thought that Dr Boylan was expressing a personal opinion not an expert opinion.

“He [DR BOYLAN]has been involved in working with the Labour Party, about drafting very radical abortion that would pretty much do what they did in Britain, which is to bring in abortion on demand where they have an enormous abortion rate, even though it is still supposedly a crime in Britain. The health ground that they invented there has led to effective abortion on demand.”

Ms Halappanavar (31) died on October 28th, 2012 at Galway University Hospital, one week after she presented with back pain and was found to be miscarrying her 17-week pregnancy.

‘Requests for termination’

Although the pregnancy was not viable, her requests for termination were refused because there was a foetal heartbeat. She contracted sepsis and died of multi-organ failure and septic shock.

Praveen Halappanavar, who is now based in the United States, did not reply to email contact from The Irish Times. His solicitor Gerry O'Donnell, however, said he had emailed a transcript Senator Mullen's comments and would await instruction from him before commenting.

In an interview with The Irish Times in November 2012, in the week after his wife had died, Mr Halappanavar recalled one of his last conversations with her. On Wednesday 24th October 2012, three days after she had presented at Galway University Hospital, 17 weeks' pregnant and miscarrying, she spontaneously delivered a female foetus.

He said while talking to a doctor outside the operating theatre, he heard his wife crying in the theatre.

“I rushed in and found Savita in tears. She said, ‘Honey, it was a girl’. A nurse there had told her it was a girl. She had wanted a girl and had thought of a name. She loved girls.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times