Rónán Mullen addresses fallout from Savita Halappanavar comment

Independent Senator said Savita would not have been in hospital if abortion was legal

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen has been criticised for his comments on the circumstances in which Savita Halappanavar died. Audio: RTÉ


Independent Senator Rónán Mullen has addressed the fallout from his suggestion that Savita Halappanavar would not have been in hospital at the time of her death if abortion was legal in Ireland.

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

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

In a radio interview last week, Mr Mullen suggested Ms Halappanavar would not have been in hospital if abortion had been available as she would not have been pregnant, a statement which provoked a political outcry.

The Senator has now released a statement addressing his remarks.

Mr Mullen said: “It is chilling that any person lobbying for abortion, whether politicians or medical persons, would use the death of Savita Halappanavar to push for abortion, when it has been clear at all times that doctors are legally entitled to intervene medically in Ireland and that they have acted accordingly.

“I acknowledge that one sentence used by me in the Sean O’Rourke interview could be reworded to more accurately express my meaning. But my meaning was clear anyway, both in the full context of that interview and in later radio interviews.

“Therefore, I can only conclude that the criticisms are not in good faith and are instead intended to deflect from my criticisms about the misuse of Savita’s case.”

Original remark

Mr Mullen made the original remark on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke in response to questions about whether Ms Halappanavar would still be alive if she had been given a termination when she asked for one while a patient at the hospital.

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.”

Prof Peter Boylan, the former master of the National Maternity Hospital and the chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and international obstetric expert Prof Sabaratnam Arulkumaran told an Oireachtas committee this week that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution played a significant role in Ms Halappanavar’s death.

The Amendment recognises the equal right to life of the unborn and the mother.