Woman at centre of ‘D’ case speaks out

News of death of Savita Halappanavar was ‘the last straw’ as four-year legal battle seemed to have been ‘for nothing’

Deirdre Conroy, who anonymously took a case to the European Court of Human Rights in 2005, arguing her human rights had been violated as she had been denied an abortion here, decided to waive her anonymity when she heard of the death of Savita Halappanavar, she said yesterday.

Ms Conroy had been pregnant with twins in 2002 but after finding out one had died in the womb and that the other had a fatal abnormality which would mean it could not live outside the womb, she decided to terminate her pregnancy. She was told she could not have a termination in the Republic.

“I assumed there would be a system in our hospitals where there would be a sympathetic arrangement,” she said. Instead she was left to “go home and sort it out” herself.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One she said she travelled to Northern Ireland for a medical termination. "I found on our own island there was a place where compassion and sympathy and tolerance prevailed. If there can be that sort of tolerance on our island just across the Border I don't see why we don't have that here."


She first spoke publicly about her situation in an open letter t o the taoiseach, the attorney general and Cardinal Desmond Connell, published in The Irish Times on the eve of the 2002 abortion referendum under the name Deirdre De Barra.

In it she asked them to take situations like hers into account when considering the issue.

She later took her case to the court of human rights – in what became known as the D case – and four years later that court found in the State’s favour. The State had argued had she sought an abortion through the courts in 2002 she would have been treated.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times