Independent Senator Ronan Mullen has been strongly criticised for comments he made today on the circumstances in which Savita Halappanavar died.
Mr Mullen claimed Ms Halappanavar would not have been in hospital and would not have died if abortion had been available in Ireland when she died in 2012.
Mr Mullen made the comment in response to questions on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke about 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.”
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.
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.
Prof Peter Boylan, the former master of Holles St and chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland, 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 her death.
The amendment recognises “the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”.
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.
Ms O’Connell said: “To suggest that if there was abortion on demand that Savita Halappanavar would never have ended up at the stage where she was mid way through her pregnancy is just very disrespectful to the late woman, to her husband that’s still alive and to a couple, that, to the best of my knowledge, were expecting a very much wanted child and that the situation emerged where she asked for a termination because my belief is, she knew what was coming down the road.”
The Fine Gael TD said Mr Mullen was misrepresenting the situation to suit his “own preconceived notions”.
During the programme Mr Mullen said: “I just want to let everyone live and our law has saved countless lives and there’s so much we could do to offer women an alternative to abortion. There’s so little being done compared to what could be done.
“Today media is full of claims from doctor’s that Savita’s death, God rest her, was caused by the Eighth Amendment. Three reports found that it was medical mismanagement of sepsis which is quite common and women in abortion jurisdictions have died from sepsis.”
He said that the doctors involved in the case did not try to hide behind the law, “though it might have suited them.”
Senator Mullen went on to say: "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.
“That is why I didn’t have a chance, nor others didn’t have a chance to test people like Dr Boylan coming in and saying – are you giving us your medical evidence or are you giving us a strongly slanted personal view.
“I don’t deny his medical competence but I absolutely question his ethical view of abortion.
“It’s a cynical process designed to convince the public that change is somehow necessary, but we have a life saving law and I hope the Irish people when they exercise their judgment on this will disregard the flawed and skewed committee process that we’ve had to endure.”
Mr Mullen said the Oireachtas committee was engaged in a “cynical process designed to convince the public that change is somehow necessary”.
On Wednesday night, the committee made its first significant decision when it voted to accept a recommendation from the Citizens’ Assembly not to retain Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution – the Eighth Amendment – in full.
The decision means the committee will recommend a referendum as part of the outcome from its work, which it is due to complete before Christmas. However, the wording of this referendum has not been decided.
The committee members have been given six options to replace or repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Mr Mullen has been contacted by The Irish Times to clarify his remarks on RTÉ radio.
Asked about his comments on Newstalk on Thursday afternoon, Mr Mullen said any criticism of his remarks was not in good faith.
He said his reference to the case of Ms Halappanavar was to highlight how “abortion proponents” were using her tragedy to advocate for a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.