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Thursday, May 31, 2018

How Savita Halappanavar. united Ireland against abortion law held on May 25,2018

Six years after Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar lost her life after an Irish hospital refused abortion citing existing laws and "Catholic" belief of the country, the people of Ireland have overwhelmingly voted against the 1983-law. A referendum was held last week following a relentless campaign after the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Over 66 per cent voters of the Republic of Ireland favoured removal of the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution that gave the unborn an equal right to life as pregnant woman. Now, the government will present a bill before Irish parliament, Dail for its approval that will scrap the 35-year-old law.

The story began in October 2012, when 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar was admitted to a hospital in Ireland's Galway city. She was 17-week pregnant and had developed serious complications putting her life at risk.

The Eight Amendment of the Irish Constitution effectively banned abortion in Ireland. Termination of pregnancy was allowed if the pregnant woman's life was at serious risk. Doctors attending the patient had to take that call.

The doctors at the Galway hospital decided against it saying that the foetus had an active heartbeat. Miscarriage had begun yet the hospital refused abortion terming it illegal.

One of the hospital staff told Savita and her husband that abortion was not possible "because Ireland is a Catholic" country. The Catholic belief does not support abortion. Savita succumbed to multiple infections on October 12, 2012.

Medically, the cause of Savita's death was attributed to septic shock, E coli in her bloodstream and a miscarriage of 17-week-old foetus. But, the death built a public opinion against the abortion law of Ireland.

Savita's death saw huge protests in Ireland. Over 2,000 protesters assembled outside Irish parliament in Dublin. Candle-lit vigils were taken out across Ireland mourning Savita's death and calling for amendment in abortion law.
The protests led to enactment of a new law in 2013 allowing abortion when doctors deemed that the pregnant woman's life was at risk due to medical complications. Interestingly, the Supreme Court of the country had ruled for same in 1992.

Two years later, in 2015, the United Nations called for a referendum on the abortion law saying that it was "concerned at the criminalization of abortion, including in the cases of rape and incest and of risk to the health of a pregnant woman".

In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) said that the Ireland abortion law that led to Savita Halappanavar's death during miscarriage subjected her to discrimination and inhuman cruelty. This set the tone for Citizens' Assembly, a public body set up to advise the Irish government on the policy matters relating to ethics and politics.

The Citizens' Assembly voted to ease abortion laws last year by a majority of 64 per cent.

The Ireland Government then opted for referendum that was held on May 25,2018

A woman writes a note on the Savita Halappanavar mural on May 26, 2018 - the day of referendum results for amedning abortion law in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar had become the symbol of the Yes campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment that bans abortion in Ireland.

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